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Cultivating Mental Wellness Amidst Advocacy

A Reflection on Recent Pro-Palestinian College Encampments & Liberation Zones


A name, a community and a symbol of faithful resistance. A name that evokes so many emotions from sadness, pain, fear, anger, frustration, helplessness, exhaustion to hope, courage, and renewed faith. A name that calls to action.

In recent weeks, our collective consciousness has been stirred by the passionate advocacy seen across university campuses in protesting the violent and oppressive attacks in Gaza, Palestine. “Liberation zones” asserting the need for the end of the genocide and all the immoral financial and political support for it. The university encampments, fueled by a deep sense of moral obligation and compassion, have brought attention to the pressing issue of illegal, oppressive occupations and their devastating impact on innocent lives.

Engaging in advocacy, particularly for causes as weighty as human rights violations and genocide, can evoke a range of emotions, from righteous anger to profound grief. Working towards social justice will not always be received with open arms, and a spoken word of truth in the face of an oppressive power can cost one their life or livelihood.

As we collectively witness the atrocious inhumane and violent attacks on people in Gaza unfold publically, there will be necessary elements of healing and Sumud (steadfast perseverance) that will involve communal solidarity. Principles of liberation psychology, which are inherent within our Islamic Psychology values, emphasize empowerment, social justice, and collective healing. By centering the voices and experiences of marginalized communities, we strive towards liberation for all.

We have come to understand what hope means in its active form. It does not simply entail seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, rather the continued engagement in actions towards life, justice and peace even when we do not see that light. 

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If the Final Hour comes while you have a seedling in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it."

Here at Khalil Center, we understand the interconnectedness of mental, spiritual and emotional well-being with our broader social and political realities. Therefore, we offer support and guidance to those navigating the complexities of advocacy while tending to their mental health. For those actively participating in campus encampments and demonstrations, it is crucial to foster and maintain a balanced perspective amidst the intensity of the movement. Here are some strategies to nurture your mental wellness:

  1. Find your community: Lean on your support network of friends, family, and fellow activists. Sharing your experiences and emotions with trusted individuals can provide validation and comfort. Solidarity benefits everyone involved. 

  2. Set Boundaries: Engage in advocacy while being mindful of your limits. It's okay to take breaks and step back when needed to recharge and replenish your emotional reserves.

  3. Elevate Mindfulness in your prayers: Prayer (Salāh) is not only a pillar in our faith, it is also a cornerstone in upholding justice and peace. Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily prayers to cultivate a sense of calm and centeredness amidst the chaos. In addition to Salāh, you can incorporate mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing exercises, or grounding techniques. All of these strategies can help you stay present and resilient.

  4. Stay Informed, but Limit Exposure: Stay informed about current events, but be mindful of the media you consume and the frequency of exposure. Taking regular breaks from news and social media can prevent overwhelm and burnout. 

  5. Seek Professional Help: If you find yourself struggling with overwhelming emotions or distress, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for support. Therapy can provide a safe space to process your feelings, find clarity, develop coping strategies, and renew your commitment to sustain the important work you are doing. Many campus encampments and liberation zones have been providing access to professional counseling services on site.

  6. Be prepared & know your rights! The Prophet peace be upon him taught us: [A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah.] Local organizations like CAIR and other local Muslim legal support groups can help you learn about your rights, liabilities and navigate resources around legal advocacy and representation.

As we continue to advocate for justice and human rights, let us also integrate practices that foster the well-being of ourselves and our community. Together, we can navigate these challenging times with resilience, compassion, and strength.

In solidarity,

Dr. Samar Harfi
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Khalil Center

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