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Article on Brexit published by @corrymeela – is it a codependency fix to an addict?

Peter Osborne

The lights went out all over Europe when war was declared just over 100 years ago.

They went out again a generation later.

Starting in Europe these conflicts took millions of lives, caused misery and grief of overwhelming magnitude, and left a world devastated and divided.

Yet in the three generations since, there has been no repeat grand conflict, hundreds of millions of people are better off, and Europe is more united, peaceful and prosperous than it has ever been. The rights, quality of life and aspiration of all in Europe have taken not small steps but giant leaps forward; an unrecognisable Europe compared to that in 1914 or 1939.

In Northern Ireland, the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s have also been replaced by light and hope for a better future – the peace process has been a shining beacon for what might be possible.

The European Union…

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A sense of injustice layered on top of broken promises – lessons from the weekend

The Time is Right for Change

In 1992, 25 years ago, the Los Angeles riots claimed 55 lives and caused over $1 billion damage.

The immediate cause was the acquittal of police officers accused of assaulting Rodney King. But there were deeper, inter-generational causes focused on social reform, poverty and frustration; a sense of injustice layered on top of broken promises.

People felt the Rodney King verdicts reflected an authority that could do what it liked and didn’t care, that treated minority communities badly and could get away with it in the criminal justice system, in politics and civic life.

Martin Luther King in the 1960s called a riot the language of the unheard. In 1992 it was the language of the unheard, the poor and the disaffected.

Race relations problems have beset the USA since its inception fuelling a civil war and segregation laws after it, when Union politicians valued reconciliation between North and South above reconciliation between black and white. The consequence has been discrimination and injustice, socio-economic gulfs and a dubious self-serving relationship between poorer minority communities and the United States armed services and prisons.

Laws in the 1960s that completed the Civil War emancipation victory a century before allowed for many steps forward. Yet the failure to tackle the systemic inequalities and institutional racism – a failure also 100 years before – meant the job was only half done. Yet again, problems were stored up for the future.

Those problems spilled on to the streets in 1992, and have done so again in recent years with a series of policing failures leading to the deaths of too many young black men and women. They have appeared in stark silhouette gain in Charlottesville.

There is no equivalence between the aggressive far right sympathisers and those gathered to oppose them in protest. However, possibly emboldened by Donald Trump, the far right also want to be heard. Many also suffer social injustice, social and economic disadvantage and a sense of loss.

The USA now needs to take the problem seriously enough to find far-reaching solutions.

It needs to avoid half measures left half-complete as happened after the Civil War, after the First and Second World Wars, after the civil rights campaign of the 1960s and the LA riots and other unrest in the 1990s.

Yet they have a President who has neither empathy nor vision, balance nor care.

Stokley Carmichael said “Our grandfathers had to run, run, run. My generation’s out of breath. We ain’t running no more”

American society and policy makers need to catch their breath and not run away any more from the social justice reforms that are needed.

Thoughts at @The_JHS There has been calcification of segregation – attitudes have hardened; the peace is more brittle

John Hewitt – you must always take the opportunity to cross to the other side of the road

There was a definite buzz about the John Hewitt International Summer School this week. There is still a passion for talking politics, of taking small steps to reconciliation, and pushing boundaries in how to break existing silos.

The In Dreams Begin Responsibilities concert at the end of its first day was powerful. It struck a balance between the horrors of the ‘70s and ‘80s and the optimism and hope of the Good Friday Agreement.

It spoke less to the doldrums of more recent years when there has been little wind in the sails for reconciliation; this could be the lost opportunity generation when there was policy failure to tackle segregation systemically.

The panel before the In Dreams Begin Responsibilities concert was equally fascinating; both uplifting and unsettling.

Seamus Mallon, Doug Beattie, Naomi Long and Steven Agnew made impressive and far-sighted contributions. They spoke passionately about the need to end segregation in education, make reconciliation central to the policy agenda as it had been central to the Good Friday Agreement, and spoke candidly about politics in 2017.

The stand-out phrase, amongst many others, was delivered by Seamus Mallon: Let us be good ancestors rather than good rememberers.

We remember and commemorate so much and we want to do it justice, on all sides of the community, at many points in our shared past.

When our grandchildren’s grandchildren look back on this phase in history, will they see their ancestors as having made seminal, relational change?

Or will they see ancestors and leaders that remembered the past but failed to create a better future?

So far, the big ticket issues have been failed.

As it stands, this is the lost opportunity generation.

This generation, since the Agreement, has so far been defined by an inadequate reconciliation policy, strategies that have failed to strategise, and a politics that has calcified and poisoned the atmosphere.

There has been a calcification of segregation – attitudes have hardened and the peace has become more brittle.

When NI Leaders work together they hit the right note – this time for @SrebrenicaUK

Srebrenica 22 years on

The leaders of the five main parties in Northern Ireland can work together. When they do it often makes significant impact.

In July 2017 it will be 22 years since the Srebrenica genocide. The leaders of Northern Ireland’s main political parties signed up to a joint statement that is highlighted in the 2017 booklet of the charity Remembering Srebrenica under the theme of Gender and Genocide.

The joint statement, amongst other things, says “we condemn prejudice and discrimination wherever and whenever it happens”. The leaders recognise and applaud the courage of the women of Bosnia-Herzegovina in surviving, seeking truth and justice and working toward reconciliation.

The leaders pay tribute to the thousands of survivors of sexual violence, many of whom still haven’t been able to speak out about their ordeals. “To honour the courage of these extraordinary women” the leaders say “we too must be courageous. We must break the silence and speak out about hatred and gender violence”.

This year there will be many ways to remember the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. They include:

ᴏ At 6pm on 10th July is the main commemoration for Northern Ireland at Belfast City Hall. If you would like to attend e-mail
ᴏ Also on 10th July there will be a seminar on victims issues involving the Victims Commissioner and Victims Forum with survivors from Srebrenica including the Mothers of Srebrenica;
ᴏ On 11th July a motion will be debated in the Dail;
ᴏ On 14th July all mosques and Islamic centres on the island will commemorate with a special reflection;
ᴏ On 16th July an inter-faith walk will occur in Belfast to coincide with similar walks throughout the islands.

Understandably, all areas that have endured conflict seem to consider their conflict as unique. The suffering is often significant and comparisons can be futile. One person and one families grief is unique to them.

To the individual and to the community or ethnic group acknowledgement can be key – acknowledgement of the wrong done, the pain caused and the trauma that still exists.

Acknowledgement is a major step toward reconciliation. It is a critical step if offered with sincerity and accepted with generosity.

To learn more about Srebrenica visit the Remembering Srebrenica website

You can follow Peter Osborne on Twitter @OsborneTweets

Article on Brexit published by @corrymeela – is it a codependency fix to an addict?

The lights went out all over Europe when war was declared just over 100 years ago.

They went out again a generation later.

Starting in Europe these conflicts took millions of lives, caused misery and grief of overwhelming magnitude, and left a world devastated and divided.

Yet in the three generations since, there has been no repeat grand conflict, hundreds of millions of people are better off, and Europe is more united, peaceful and prosperous than it has ever been. The rights, quality of life and aspiration of all in Europe have taken not small steps but giant leaps forward; an unrecognisable Europe compared to that in 1914 or 1939.

In Northern Ireland, the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s have also been replaced by light and hope for a better future – the peace process has been a shining beacon for what might be possible.

The European Union has been central to much of that change, in Europe as a whole and in its nooks and crannies.

But in this part of Europe we are less than half way through our peace process. The 1998 agreement provided a foundation to build peace over the next 50 years and longer.

Peace building is long-term. It must not be taken for granted or neglected.

A forward flow to peace in Ireland is not inevitable.

With the 2020s already shaping up to be a rocky decade Brexit only adds to the uncertainties.

There will be a massive psychological effect on the peace process for everyone if there is a return to some physical infrastructure on the border.

Leaving the Customs Union with a hard Brexit will have consequences for the border.

Meaningless phrases, such as not returning to the borders of the past and seamless borders, need challenged and plain language used.

If a pole is constructed with a camera on top, it becomes a target. If a caravan is provided in which spot-check officials have coffee, they become targets. And you have to repair and defend your targets.

There is already widespread uncertainty about the constitutional impact of Brexit on Scotland, Gibraltar and even Jersey. The unique circumstances of Northern Ireland will be even more prominent in discussions given it is a region in the middle of a peace process with economic interests that speak to a unique relationship, not just with Scotland and Britain but with the rest of the island and Europe.

Many industries, the caring and emergency services are dependent on the in-flow of labour. Migration to this small part of Europe has enriched us so much economically, socially and culturally. For a region uncomfortable with the concept of “other” raising its eyes to the bright and positive influence of others has been refreshing and change-making.

Freedom of movement is so important for this society beyond the economic impact of it and the other Freedoms.

And Northern Ireland, for good historical reasons, jealously protects its access to protections, rights and justice all of which have advanced immeasurably because of the EU.

For a devolved administration with mutual ethnic vetoes on legislation the impact of a Great Repeal Bill that dilutes protections and rights recently won could be devastating for an already unstable devolved power-sharing arrangement.

In the last 20 years politics has come to define all that there is in the peace process while civil society has been weakened, less able to play its critical role in helping peace flow up to Stormont.

Yet in those years while civil society has shown maturity, politics has remained fractious and unstable.

And the fractiousness of the Brexit debate so far doesn’t suggest it will get better.

In the Bible, Titus suggests avoiding a divisive person after one or two warnings – it seems in Northern Ireland we are still addicted to divisiveness.

When people grow up in a household with addiction issues they can be attracted to people with addiction problems. Maybe because we have grown up with conflict, we are addicted to issues that cause more conflict.

Brexit may be like a co-dependency fix to an addict.

It’s just that some of us want to build the peace, not find more reasons to fight.

Having failed the people of #Srebrenica the international community must not fail the body recovery process

Briefing at the International Commission on Missing Persons

Some of this article may be difficult to read. It follows a briefing by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) during a recent visit to Bosnia Herzegovina.

There were around 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995. Most are buried at the Potacari site.

I say most because it is believed 1,000 people are still missing, maybe still lying in one or two mass burial sites yet to be discovered.

More than 20 years on, bodies may still be located in forests where access is restricted due to landmines not yet decommissioned; their retrieval made more difficult again by the possibility of having been carried away by wild animals.

I also say most are buried at Potacari because just after the genocide occurred the victims were dug up and reb

Can you imagine giving blood for this reason?

uried at a variety of sites many miles apart. It made locating them more difficult. As a result the remains of many victims are incomplete. Different body parts have been located at different burial sites.

Many family members have to make an agonising decision of whether to bury the parts of their loved ones (father, son, brother) that have been recovered or whether to wait until all their body parts are found; if their body parts are ever found.

The ICMP has recovered and identified thousands of people in the last decade or so. It is difficult and challenging work. There are hundreds of victims they continue to work on; trying to identify which body part belongs to which victim.

They have a limited budget made clear by the conditions in which people work, the limited number of staff and constant challenge to find resources from year to year.

It raises at least three immediate questions:

1. How can people do this to other people for whatever reason – faith, ethnicity or politics? And surely there is a sense of guilt felt by perpetrators that will lead to someone, somewhere, at some time, for some reason coming forward with information about where a mass burial site is located. It may be difficult given that much of the reburials occurred at night – but there has to be additional information available.

2. Atrocities like this – people’s inhumanity to other people – cross faiths, regions, backgrounds and eras. It doesn’t happen in the name of most people of any faith or identity. How can anyone justify it? How can anyone not acknowledge the pain it has caused?

3. How can there be any question that funding is withdrawn from the ICMP while there is still hope of locating the missing 1,000?

The international community should have done much more to prevent the Srebrenica genocide in the first place. It has a responsibility now to help the families locate their loved ones – all of them – and bury them properly.

Some thoughts on the Colombian peace process after meeting 40 delgates with @INCOREinfo

Colombian peace agreement signed

The Colombian peace process has caught the attention of the world in recent months and years. It was a seemingly intractable conflict that lasted decades. They are now working through a complex peace negotiation and the need for post-agreement peace building.

The peace deal was put to a referendum but it failed to be approved by the narrowest of margins. It was then amended and ratified unanimously in the country’s legislatures.

The EU special envoy to the peace negotiations, Eamon Gilmore from Ireland, described the peace deal as more solid and forward-looking than the Good Friday Agreement.

A military victory for either the FARC or Colombian government seemed unattainable and people, more than likely, were just getting tired of conflict. The prospect of many more years of fighting inflicting misery on thousands and millions of people seems to have been what motivated both sides to end the conflict – understandably so after 200,000 people had died, 7 million people were displaced, over 45,000 people disappeared, 13,000 were the victims of sexual violence and 10,000 or more people had been tortured.

Doesn’t that put the conflict in Northern Ireland in to perspective?

The conflict in Colombia has ended and there is hope that the nature of the peace can facilitate post-agreement progress in politics, social and economic policy and human rights.

Many of the factors that will help build peace in Colombia are common to Northern Ireland as they are to other regions and areas coming out of conflict.

The external powers that helped, supported and cajoled the conflicted parties to negotiate and have been critical to stimulating the desire for peace and the peace deal itself need to keep their eye on the ball in the years ahead. They must continue to offer positive support.

In Northern Ireland that hasn’t always been the case. And soon, Northern Ireland has the prospect of sitting outside the structures of one of its greatest supports – the European Union.

Attitudes to the “other” need to be reframed and that might require generational change. A peace process that follows decades of conflict can take decades to develop firm roots; maybe even up to 50 years. This is a long-haul process.

There is a need for long-term structural change – to over-haul the causes of conflict and segregation and not just manage the consequences of conflict and a subsequent peace. In Northern Ireland we have hardly scratched the surface of the structural change that is needed. Society is as segregated now as it ever was.

In Colombia they seem to be showing real commitment to issues that require structural change such as land reform.

Which also leads to the need for social and economic change; social justice that demonstrates benefits of the peace are shared by everyone including those that are worst off, or living at interfaces, or under-achieving in education, or with poor prospects for high paying employment. The peace dividend should be for everyone and be seen to be for the benefit of everyone.

And often the best way to find solutions to civil society appreciating the benefits of the peace, of feeling part of the process, is to involve civil society formally in decision-making. It can be done; there are models of deliberative democracy proving successful all over the world.

The Colombians have an opportunity to do something special in years to come. It will be in years to come; when the goodwill and hope wears thinner that the greatest challenges will be faced.

If they continue to innovate and demonstrate commitment they will solidify the peace. Their peace process can be an inspiration to more than all those people who will benefit from it in Colombia; but to the wider world and those regions still to come out of conflict.

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