Reflections on the British Council Peace and Beyond Conference, Belfast, April 2018
‘We were given to the Serbs.’ In July 1995 the Bosnian town of Srebrenica fell to the forces of General Ratko Mladić and his Serbian paramilitaries. At least 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred. Deportations and rape followed.
In Cardiff’s Temple of Peace the 21st anniversary of the greatest atrocity in Europe since the Second World War was remembered through the testimony of three Bosnian Muslim survivors and the daughter of Bosnian refugees who was raised in Scotland.
photo credit: Emyr Jenkins
On December 3rd the Welsh Centre for International Affairs hosted an excellent joint event with Cardiff University School of Journalism about reporting on international news stories. I was keen to hear from the panel of very experienced journalists and it was indeed a treat to have them all in Cardiff for the evening as they certainly did give us entertaining and valuable insights into their field of expertise in both broadcasting and the press. See reports below from Maria Diaz and William Hayward.
On New Year’s Day this year the Western Mail published an article by the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, Saleem Kidwai. He claimed that a precious achievement in Welsh cultural life is in jeopardy and that a generation have felt ‘rejected by their fellow Welshmen’.
Welsh-Muslim youth who thought themselves like any other Welsh person got a rude awakening post-9/11 — a sort of cultural shock that they were not like any other Welsh person. Overnight, they were the other, the enemy…
As Mr Kidwai set out the traumatic ramifications of this tragic dissociation I felt the force of his appeal that, “As a society… We have to reject any attempts to marginalize Muslims as second-class citizens” but I was perplexed as to how to go about that.
Until I perceived a potential response from the world of journalism itself – from journalism in Wales.
My upbringing amongst conflict in Northern Ireland convinced me early of the necessity of engaging with those whose outlook is different from mine. After many years’ experience in inter-denominational encounter I sought to create spaces in which I could come close to the experience of members of religions other than my own, people of other beliefs and of atheists.
I start from an emphasis not on ideas or theories but on life lived. The sharing of experience, of what happens when people ‘do’ what they believe, encourages realism and builds respect. It fosters attentive listening and enriches and enlarges one’s own experience.
From Scripture To Life, Convener.
Jewish, Muslim, Christian dialogue 2008 – present.
Each month a phrase is chosen from the scriptures of the 3 faiths, put into practice by the respective faith members and the experiences shared.
The Group, Convener.
Atheist, Agnostic, Believer dialogue 2010 – 2011
What’s it like to live without religious faith or as an agnostic or as a believer? Each month a theme agreed to be put into practice and the experiences shared.
What Our Lives Say – Seminar leader, Worth Abbey 2011
We assert what we believe. What does the way we live say about what we believe?
“the ease with which you approach your audience…with sensitivity and confidence”
“You held us spellbound … everyone was most complimentary”
Seeing and Being Seen – Seminar leader, Aylesford Priory, 20th Sept 2013
“a born communicator”
“your gentle style of presentation – people are assured that you are speaking to them”
“leaving your listeners with food for thought – with the excellent aide memoire for future reference”
Keynote Speaker at 2015’s Regenerate conference 13th – 15th February
Multiculturalism – Do You Care? Young Muslims, Christians, Atheists