Boone (North Carolina): Deeply perturbed by the ethnic violence in Iraq, Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has met senior Iraqi religious leaders in the US and said that dialogue is the only way to establish long-term peace in the war-torn country.
At the `Art of Living Retreat` at the scenic Blue Ridge Mountain in North Carolina, Ravi Shankar met two Iraqi Shia leaders.
He has plans to hold talks with Iraqi Sunni leaders too, initially through Skype and will travel to Europe next week to continue the dialogue process as part of his effort to impress upon Iraqi religious leaders to convince their followers against violence to achieve their goal.
"The way the killings are happening there (in Iraq), we are trying to push for the last chance...If there is any chance to bring them (Iraqi religious leaders) to negotiating table and have a dialogue," Ravi Shankar said.
"Keeping that in mind, we are making all our effort to make a dialogue between the warring factions," Ravi Shankar said after the initial round of talks with Iraqi religious leaders at Bonn city of North Carolina.
"Religious leaders have a big role to play here. They can give orders to their followers to stop violence. Peace can`t just happen only with the politician. It has to come from the ground level. The trust needs to be rebuild upon and the religious leaders should come together," the Indian spiritual leader said, adding that he has also spoken to Indian Muslim religious leaders in this regard.
"Start the dialogue and put an end to the ongoing violence," he said with Iraqi religious leaders standing by his side at the Art of Living Retreat.
Participating in the peace dialogue, Sayyed Mohammed Al Attar, a Shia leader, said that Shias of Iraq want peace and live in harmony with the Shunnis in the country and sought the help of Ravi Shankar in brining all the religious leaders of the country on a table for a peace dialogue.
"This is a great peace mission (by Shankar)," he said.
The Bonne dialogue was also attended by Sheikh Mustafa Akhnoud of the Imam Ali Centre in Virginia.
Al-Attar said that the Sunnis in Iraq have adequate representation in the government and the political set up.
But they want full control over power, which they can get only through democratic means and not through violence and ethnic cleansing, which is currently being attempted by the leaders of the Islamic militants.
"It (situation in the country) would be worse, if they (religious leaders) do not start the dialogue," Al-Attar said.
"The situation could be even worse without a dialogue. It is high time to initiate dialogue. So we being very neutral between both the parties, I thought we could play a role and god willing hope to get some success," said Ravi Shankar.
The Art of Living Foundation has quite a few centers in Iraq with about a hundred of its teachers working inside the country.