Humane Airports

By Christopher Greenwood

From racial profiling to humane airports, a vision from Mohanji for the future after a recent incident when travelling by air. We share a summary of the eye-witness account by Chris Greenwood on the harassment at Frankfurt airport and the days following that.

Discrimination at Frankfurt Airport

Yesterday we arrived in Slovenia, and I would have liked to have shared a more positive message this morning. But unfortunately, I had the opportunity to witness discrimination and extreme harassment first-hand at Frankfurt Airport as Mohanji cleared through the security of our transit route from Mumbai to Frankfurt. Then we were transiting from Frankfurt to Ljubljana. I had never seen anything like this before. Obviously, I have a UK passport and a fair complexion, so I have never experienced any discrimination myself. But to witness this was a shock because it’s the first time I’d seen it first-hand. 

As we were travelling, we went through the transit security, and we went into separate lanes because Mohanji was going business class and I was going by the usual. As we went on to the other side, we’d usually wait for each other. I’d passed, and I couldn’t see him. So I collected my bags and looked up the line. I could see him right at the top of the line. He was surrounded and was being interrogated by two police officers. Also, all the security guards were around him too, all the staff who operate those machines which are checking, scanning, x rays and things like this. 

As I got closer, I could see that they were ripping out everything from the bag that he had. He was carrying a backpack. There was obviously a laptop and things like this, but there were also some very important personal documents too. All the cards were indiscriminately taken out of the wallet; every single pocket was emptied, everything was being questioned. 

They started under the premise of checking for explosives. I’ve had that check before; usually, they have a swab of cloth, and they run it across all the materials in the bag and then put it into a machine because it can pick up something that the explosives have. Then they check it, and that’s enough. But here, it just seemed completely over the top. Everything was taken out, everything questioned one by one, “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?” And then also with money, “How much money do you have? Why are you carrying this money? Where did you get it from?” Completely unnecessary, especially for someone who’s travelling in business in transit; it’s perfectly fine that you’re carrying money. I can only put this down to complete harassment. Towards the end, I could even notice the body language on the usual security staff was changing. I could see that they felt uncomfortable by the situation that was happening. By the end, a third policeman had joined in this interrogation. It was a really unpleasant experience. 

I understood from Mohanji’s previous travels that in Frankfurt Airport, he had experienced the same problems. Afterwards, when I was looking on the internet, some other people were sending me articles; it’s not uncommon apparently for it to happen at that airport. It has a history of it, of people indiscriminately being harassed as they make their way through the airport. It really soured the last leg of the journey yesterday. It was complete disrespect, discrimination and harassment. 

Discrimination at Frankfurt Airport cont.

Yesterday I was on the Frankfurt Airport Facebook page. Ironically, they had posted a day earlier a picture and a hashtag against racism. So I wrote a message on that picture to let them know what happened, what we had suffered or experienced, and that I was the witness to discrimination and racism. The response that I got back was very casual, non-committal, lacking any sort of sense of responsibility. For me, this has given me an insight into how lightly people treat these matters when actually, it’s a very, very important matter for many people. 

After reading the comments, I came to know that many people have experienced a similar situation at that airport; this was not an isolated incident. What that agency is doing is reflecting on the airport as a whole. 

As I think back to the event, all the bags were unpacked. Everything was taken out; every single item chucked into the tray like trash, then just handed over to us in trays, non-apologetic, non-committal, not even a second look, a second glance. It’s that disrespect that needs to change. People should be able to travel in transit and be treated well, treated with respect despite the colour of their skin and their ethnicity. 

It’s worth fighting for 

We’ve been writing letters and contacting every possible authority to make sure that it receives the profile it deserves. It’s an important task. Not because it’s for Mohanji, but because the mindset has been indoctrinated into people over centuries, prejudices have been passed down through societies and families; these have contributed to this situation. The people, who are in power on the ground, can be individually immature or lack the right training in ethics. 

This is a prime example of what the mindset is of the majority of people. We can then look at why Mohanji has created all these platforms, such as the World Consciousness Alliance. It is founded to raise the awareness of this generation to the highest human potentials of kindness, compassion, unconditional love, bringing it up from the levels of anger, hatred, jealousies, prejudices to something much higher, where everybody’s treated well and respected. It’s the same with the Early Birds Club. These platforms are bringing people together beyond all man-made barriers, prejudices and judgments about one another and bring people to a unity where everybody is respected, regardless of race, religion, caste, culture, creed, and colour. 

What was experienced in Frankfurt were utter discrimination, contempt, and real racial profiling. It’s very, very important that we all stand up and fight for things like this. Having spent time with Mohanji, he’s always maintained that for him, all lives matter. This includes people, animals, plants, all species; everything has its relevance in the world. We should meet everybody with equality and respect. Nobody’s higher; nobody’s lower. Everybody has their place. So this is what is worth the fight. 

As for me, going through these past two days, it’s been a real experience and a practical lesson and making sure that I do what needs to be done now. This includes the speed at which we’re working to make sure people have been contacted and that all the letters have been checked by the relevant people. Life presented this situation; there’s no rehearsal. It’s a practical lesson of speaking when you need to speak, writing when you need to write and acting when you need to. All activities are moving ahead, and we’ll see what comes from this in time. But for sure, we’re taking this as far as it can possibly go. 

Act at the right time 

We are using this time very well to do what we can to raise the visibility of this deplorable incident to the highest authorities possible. And multiple friends are now taking this forward to give support which is amazing. So, it’s moving forward; we have momentum. The purpose is not for apologies; it’s for a complete shift in mindset, where people are treated with respect regardless of the colour of their skin, to end this racial profiling that’s happening. 

Looking back on what Mohanji has spoken in all the lessons that I’ve shared, the whole effort for me is making the best use of the opportunity that has been given. This didn’t have to happen to Mohanji, but it did. And because of his standing in the world, people will take notice. Even if a security guard now thinks twice before performing such an act, we would have helped others. The lesson which I can take away from this is that everything and everybody has their time, every situation has its time, configuration, place. And if we don’t act at that point in time and don’t do our best, then the rest of life might not give us the opportunity. This can be seen with many things in life; you can look at great artists, entertainers, politicians; there was always a time when they were present when they were relevant. In this context, today, this incident of racial profiling has relevance now. In five years, maybe not so; whilst we can, we’re using the momentum to take this as far as it can go. 

Like this incident of racial profiling, we’re doing the best that we can whilst it’s present and with us now. Mohanji shared before in satsangs that many people are chasing something which they don’t have and are aspiring for something which is not with them now. In that bargain, they’re missing today. Or waiting for a better opportunity to do something tomorrow, “Okay, it’ll be better if I do this tomorrow. Maybe I’ll write about it tomorrow.” But then there’s no guarantee that this will come. Whilst goals are good while setting a vision and setting a plan to achieve something is also good if it’s at the expense of missing today, and in the pretext of achieving something tomorrow, then we miss what’s with us now, that opportunity for fulfilment at each and every moment because the future will be different. The whole configuration of situations, and even ourselves, our personal makeup, our mindset, how we think, will be different. This is why today, with this practical thing which we’re doing, it’s a lesson of what needs to be done today should be done today and to the best of our effort.

Making a change 

We’re moving forward with good momentum to bring awareness of this terrible incident of racial profiling and sheer racism that happened to Mohanji at Frankfurt Airport. This is not because we’re looking for an apology. It’s because it’s completely against what we stand for as a family, as an organization. We’re doing it because we want change; we want to change the pattern of injustice that’s systematic across many parts of the world, particularly Frankfurt Airport. Looking into this matter in more detail, I’ve seen many more accounts of people who have experienced similar situations, harassment, abuse, humiliation, all under the pretext of security checks, even to the point where people are now afraid in some cases to travel through airports and security screening. It is terrible when you think about it; you’re making legitimate travel somewhere, but you’re completely concerned as you’re going through that security check-in, what’s going to happen to you, how you’re going to be treated if you’re going to be subjected to abuse. 

So this is a change which we want to make so that nobody else has to suffer this. It can be practical what that change is: right training for the people who are in these positions of power, on how to handle people with respect, with good ethics, and good behaviour. Not to treat people as a suspect when they’re moving through these airports. There could be some way for people who have experienced this to give feedback so that there can be a learning for the airports – a system where they can recognize what’s happening, maybe even a ranking. Things can be done, and this is what we’re pushing for. 

I was thinking about the usual responses, which can happen in a situation like this because now the profile has been raised to quite a level. What are the typical things that people will do? What will people say? I think the usual way, which is already being experienced now, is starting with one – it didn’t happen – minimizing it, trivializing it, which is sheer avoidance. Then the next one will be, “Well, that’s obviously just a routine check. That happens to everybody. The police and the guards were doing their job; the world is a dangerous place, those checks are important.” Basically, trying to justify the situation and the actions. Again, completely avoiding it, escapism. Then I think the third one, if they can’t handle what’s coming, and they can’t accept any mistakes or find any other way to avoid it, then what could happen is that they look to slander the person that’s involved. They talk bad about the person. They make them look like a demon so that whatever happened to them is justified, “Okay, he was a bad guy, so what you did was right anyway.” And they can even pay people for this. 

I was thinking through these because, under pressure to attempt to save themselves and their face, they could resort to many options, trying to make a diversion from the actual issue at hand. They can shame a person by justifying their actions.

I thought that there might even be more paid slander so that the whole issue is eclipsed and avoided. But we keep going because we have a clear purpose now, and that is to bring a change to this pattern of injustice. 

Ahimsa (non-violence)

Today I wanted to start with a quote, which I shared some weeks back, that I feel has permanent relevance. It is from Albert Einstein. He said,

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

Albert Einstein

Yesterday Mohanji gave a very powerful meeting, and clarification about the reasons why we’ve decided to take a stand against racism, racial profiling, and the harassment people are subjected to at the airport security checks. Especially in Frankfurt Airport, where he was harassed, which happened once before as well. 

In this meeting, he clarified with all the country heads, all the leaders of the teams, the advisors about the incident at Frankfurt and why we’re making a stand. This is not for his apology. This is not for him personally; it’s to bring a change in the world where no one else has to suffer that harassment, racism and outright discrimination. From the incident to now, it’s been incredibly quick. All the activities have been happening, making sure that things are visible for people and that the right people are being contacted, such as higher authorities. 

Over the past day, some people had worries, concerns and confusions on whether our activities to raise the visibility of this issue were in line with Ahimsa or non-violence, one of our core principles. So Mohanji clarified Ahimsa really well. He said that Ahimsa is not creating violence in thoughts, words or actions. It’s ensuring that no one is harmed because of our thoughts, words and actions. It’s about our interaction with the world. But that doesn’t mean that you lie down and become a doormat for everybody. You also have to protect yourself and take action based on the merits of the issue at hand. Not that you go out and attack somebody, but you assess what it is and then take appropriate action. 

After the meeting yesterday, we spoke some more. He explained it in a way that sometimes you have to act. For example, if somebody is coming to you with a knife, intending to harm you or kill you, what would you do? You can’t ask them to sit down and meditate and think about what they’re doing. You have to handle it as it is. Or if a mosquito is coming and biting, you can’t calmly sit, chant and hope it will go away. You have to do something about it. 

The incident at Frankfurt is not just personal; it’s for a much larger good too, where many people have experienced this treatment. And probably all across the world as well, something similar is happening. These people don’t have the platform, the voice, or the reach which we do. So we can do something to use it well. 

To help my understanding as well, he shared some more clarifications or illustrations about Ahimsa. We spoke about Krishna, and he said that like Krishna, he likes to be practical. Krishna waged many wars; many people died in those battles. Pretty much all the kings at the time were wiped out. So in itself, the act of war, fighting, of death could be seen as violence, and there would have been some. But it was done for a much larger purpose, for dharma, for a greater good. Like that, each action can be taking on what it’s doing for others too.

Something else which I liked from Mohanji’s briefing yesterday with all of the country heads and team leads is that he reiterated that we should be speaking when we can, when we have the time, when we have the opportunity, and when we have a voice. He said that’s especially important because if we don’t, if we’re passive, then this is the example we are setting for the next generation. And we leave them also the burden of what we had to carry. 

Speaking out 

For me personally, this has been a real living example of the teachings, lessons and messages that I’ve shared over the past weeks and months because it’s almost as if it all came together in this situation to give a real example of how Mohanji approaches life. And the way he approaches life gives me the best lessons. Suppose I was to just think personally about my experience with this situation and share some of the things that I feel in my growth since meeting Mohanji. In that case, I can see a change from how I’ve handled this situation to how I probably would have done two years ago. I probably would have been very reluctant to speak about this; I would have had a lot of fear and unsure of what I should do. 

But when I wrote my posts, which was my eye witness account, I felt that I had to speak because I had witnessed it; I was there. It could have been anybody, but it wasn’t; it was me. I felt a need to share what I’d seen, so at least people understood how the situation happened. A year and a half ago, maybe I wouldn’t have done this, but this time around, it was a natural thing for me; there’s been an injustice; I’ve seen it, so I should speak about it. 

I feel that for me, thinking about it demonstrated that some of the teachings that Mohanji has shared have at least settled somewhere. I can say I’ve taken them all in; I will never say this because there’s always much, much more to learn. But at least that aspect of not being worried about what people think, what people might say, how I would be seen, has completely gone. There was no second thought to do this, so this is something which I recognized. 

Since then, being close to Mohanji and seeing how he is approaching this whole situation is again incredibly inspiring. It’s re-establishing everything that was said before in many talks. If we have the opportunity to speak, we should, especially when there are many other people out there who would have experienced this situation and didn’t have the opportunity or platform to share their voice. 

Mohanji made a really great podcast that is coming out today, titled “We must speak because they cannot“. It is not just about this incident at Frankfurt, but this is for every being that doesn’t have a voice – we should speak for them, we should take that as a responsibility. 

What inspires me about Mohanji’s approach to this situation is that he’s willing to take this all the way. He’s not worried about what may or what may not happen. For him, there’s a clear purpose, and that’s to bring about a change where everybody is respected; no one should feel unsafe when they’re legitimately travelling through Frankfurt airport or any other airport, no one should experience security harassment. All these agencies that are involved in that process should adhere to good ethics. 

This is the goal. How we will reach there will change, we have to be flexible. Mohanji said openly that something good might happen, something bad may happen. People could shame, defame, and give slander in an effort to save themselves. We don’t know what will happen. But what he is clear on, though, is that we’re moving for a purpose. As he said before, whilst our heart is beating, we should do something for the world; we should do something for a purpose. Not just to sleep, eat, drink, and other things like that. We can make a difference. 

For me, when I read between that a little bit more, it shows to me that he has no real attachment to any image or idea of the image about himself. He’s willing to go all the way out there, put himself out there, regardless of what may come. And he knows that whatever comes, he’ll face it then. Also, he’s focused on purpose. He’s doing what needs to be done now, today because it happened now. As he’s mentioned, and as I’ve shared in other lessons before, there are no rehearsals in life. It’s now; doing what you can now. 

Today, we’ll keep going, and more people are coming to support this. It may not be possible that from this, everybody begins to love all beings, all creations and wants to live in complete harmony. But possibly, and at least, they should be having that basic level of respect and understanding, where people are treated equally as humans with decency. Then there’ll be humane airports, which is one of the hashtags which we’re now promoting as well. We want to have humane airports where everybody’s treated with respect.


Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 15th April 2021


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