It is now 6 years since I attended the amazing conference ‘Civilian Causalities Civilian Solutions’, organised by PT and we started the INP network.
It has been an extraordinary 6 years and I have since met many members of the network and received invitations to work with them. The global family of peace is now more connected and our voices are stronger, together we can and do make a difference in the world.
This is my personal experience and I know many members will have their own experience of furthering and developing relationships within the INP. I have twice been to north Spain as a guest of Juan Gutiérrez and spoken at Basque peace events. The first was in November 2006 and I spoke with Pat Magee at the 5th Convention about ‘Active Nonviolence’. The main focus was the Basque citizens facing the challenges of peace building in a society torn by violence until recent years and my experience in Northern Ireland was seen as a mirror by which the Basque community could learn. I received so much from learning about the Basque conflict and meeting people who were passionate about nonviolent solutions. We went to a village where many of ETA combatants have come from and saw a wall with the photos of them all. I could feel how much pain and suffering the Basque community had gone through as well as the victims of families of the violence from ETA.
The second time was in 2009 and this time Pat Magee and I shared a platform in Bilbao with two members of “Parents Circle – Families Forum”. Aaron Barnea and Ali Abu Awwad. We all spoke under the title ‘Positive Peace, A challenge that can be met’. Though we represented two countries/conflicts it was amazing to see how much we shared. A highlight was travelling afterwards to the Guernica Peace Museum where we met Luis Iriondo the last survivor of the bombing and heard of the great work of the museum. Guernica has become an advanced example of reconciliation with the acknowledgment of the harm done by Germany and the many bridges being built between the 2 countries.
Juan who is an incredible peace networker and tireless peacebuilder then organised another event in Dresden with the “Interessengemeinschaft 13. Februar 1945” (Dresden, Germany), also a member of the INP. We had hoped there would be many members there but in the end I was the only other member. I remember arriving in a room which was packed with people from all over Europe. I listened intensely as two women described being 10 year olds in Dresden when the bombs fell in World War II. I was shocked at their experiences, so traumatic and the bombings were relentless, the women were amazing in their resilience and compassion. Luis Iriondo whom I had met in Guernica was also there and he carries a powerful story with such dignity and humanity. Matthias Neutzner was an excellent host and it was a privilege to hear stories from World War II, so important we hear them before they disappear, they have much to teach us. I realised how long the wounds of war last and how much violence was carried out by the Allies and thought deeply about how much was necessary.
Another amazing moment was when Pat Magee and I were invited by Renny Cushing of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights to speak at the 4th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva. One powerful moment was when many of us who has lost a loved one were on stage saying “No” to the death penalty (PHOTO?)
I attended a Google ideas summit in Dublin to create a Network of Avoiding Violent Extremism and was thrilled to see Robi Damelin of the “Parents Circle – Families Forum”, Bud Welsh from “Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights” as well as Febby Firmansyah from “Forum58 Foundation” (Indonesia)Bali. There were some challenges over the two days with how Google organised the conference and it was so good to get support and validation. There were many ‘Formers’ there who had powerful stories of their times using violence and their work now to stop radicalisation of youth, working with gangs and young people to empower them to make positive choices.
Recently I was in Rwanda at the guest of Jean Paul Samputu and the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace. I was very happy to see again Jean -Baptiste Ntakirutimana in his own country and hope to go back there soon for a longer visit.
When I was in USA 2 weeks ago I was invited to meet with “September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows” (PT) members twice, once in New York City and once in Boston. To my surprise Afifa Azim from “Afghan Women’s Network” just happened to be there and I had lunch with her, PT member Adele Welty and PT staff person, Katharina Feil. We had an excellent talk about what Afifa needs as she work tirelessly to promote women rights in Afghanistan and what the international network for peace could do for her. I was very happy to see Terry Rockfeller in Boston and hear of her incredible experiences with “L’Onf” and was very well looked after by Terry Greene. It was another inspiring and rich meeting.
Phyllis Rodriguez heard I had a spare day because my workshop was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy and invited me to a workshop she had arranged which Father Michael Lapsley from the “Institute for the Healing of Memories” was facilitating. Father Michael called us all to make bold dialogue and inspired us all. Also parts of his excellent new book were read out. I was struck by the caring and compassion of all who were there and I sat next to a very inspiring woman from Congo who has a harrowing story and is now working to help others.
On the plane home I thought of all my experiences in the last 6 years and feel very grateful for each one. The network has huge importance and though there are challenges of language, physical distance and no funds it is still highly relevant and important we are in touch.
It is hard to do this work as it is not just intellectual but is emotional and we all find our own way to transform our grief. Yet we share a passion of working for a peaceful world and a commitment to do all we can. I know I find in the larger community much strength and reliance to carry me to do more.
We now have a new INP page on facebook and will soon be starting a closed group where members will be able to share news and projects and receive support. The website continues to be looked after very well by our Spanish group “Association March 11th Affected by Terrorism”. Many thanks to them for maintaining and developing the website and I will write a new update on the future of the INP in a few months.