By Robin Gurung, a Peace Ambassador
I was born on November 8, 1988, in a small village in Bhutan, at a time when the “happiest country in the world” was beginning a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The target was the Lhotsampas, ethnic Nepalese people, most of whom had been legal citizens of Bhutan for generations.
Fifteen years or so after King Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the term “Gross National Happiness”—which began a campaign to emphasize the well being of Bhutan's people over economic productivity— the same king introduced policies that stripped away the fundamental human rights of more than 100,000 of his own people.
Although my family had lived in Bhutan legally for at least four generations, as Lhotsampas we were forced to leave my country when I was just three years old. I don't remember most of the events that took place during that time, but I do remember vividly the twenty years of my life growing up in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal.
In the camp I began to wonder at an early age, What did I do to deserve this life? Everywhere I turned, I saw nothing but chaos and the suffering of my family, neighbors, and, by then, almost 120,000 other refugees living in seven different camps in Nepal. From early childhood I sought the path to my real identity, but I couldn't get beyond the “refugee” label. As one who is refused by the world, I felt like a waste product in human form. I wasn't able to find the meaning behind the chaos—all I could think of was revenge. In my mind, the king of Bhutan was the reason for all the suffering in my life, and I thought that if I could take revenge against him, the suffering would disappear and I would restore my lost identity and that of all the other refugees. My path led me, at the age of ten, to train as a child soldier, learning how to use guns and design bombs.
Eventually, while still a teenager in the camp, I came to realize violence and revenge were not the answer, but I still lacked a clear vision for what was the answer. I was left with only questions: How can I solve this problem? How can I bring healing to my people?
On January 4, 2012, I arrived in the U.S., hoping that this would be the place where I can forget my past and focus on a better future. But now I know that I miscalculated. Here in the U.S., the despair of my community—more than 60,000 Bhutanese refugees have resettled in the U.S. so far—is borne out in statistics like the abnormally high rates of depression and suicide. In fact, the suicide rate of my people here—more than double that of the rest of the U.S.—has so alarmed officials here that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other organizations have launched an official investigation into the matter. The rate of clinical depression among my community is even worse—nearly three times the rate of the broader U.S. population. This sad story is increasingly being told in respected publications such as The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal.
Shortly after I came to the U.S., in July 2012, I met James O'Dea and received a scholarship to participate in the Peace Ambassador Training. Something profound happened at the deepest level of my consciousness in the training, and I found answers to the questions I had been asking for so long.
Through the Peace Ambassador Training:
- I came to understand that the only way to usher in peace and justice to society is to first find inner peace.
- I learned that the only way to end the transmission of wounds is through peaceful dialogue.
- I was inspired to write the king of Bhutan asking for his participation in peaceful dialogue with my community.
- I found the courage to leave behind my tragic past and focus on creating a healing environment where peaceful dialogue between the government of Bhutan and my fellow refugees can be possible.
Still, none of this would have been possible without the clear road map the Peace Ambassador Training empowered me to create. With this road map I was able to lay out the steps I needed to take to work toward the changes that I have dreamed of for many years: to bring healing and justice to the wounded in my community.
I believe that the practices the Peace Ambassador Training imparts are the critical tools needed in our world to cultivate peace and heal wounded refugees and all those who have suffered discrimination and injustice. For me, this training was life changing.
Robin Gurung is a spiritual healer, clinical hypnotherapist, past-life therapist, and reiki master. From age 3 to 23, Robin lived in the Sanischare refugee camp in eastern Nepal with his family, having been exiled from their home in Bhutan during the ethnic cleansing campaign of the early 1990s. He arrived in the United States in early 2012 as part of a United Nations resettlement program. Robin is currently working on his book From Revenge to Realization: An appeal to the King of Bhutan For Repatriation and Reconciliation. Robin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family.
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This article appears in:
2014 Catalyst, Issue 6: Peace Ambassadors for the 21st Century