Conflict Transformation

The work of Rethinking Conflict in the area of conflict transformation is across three main areas

The Irish Peace Process

Rethinking Conflict’s ongoing work in the Irish peace process, post conflict, is still dealing with a sizeable piece of what is termed unfinished business. Rethinking Conflict as an organisation is working across a number of areas, internally within Northern Ireland, in the Republic of Ireland and also in Great Britain with a number of key groups and individuals. The vast majority of our work is private and confidential, we do not believe initially that difficult conversations should take place in the public space, but only when there is enough confidence to bring a critical mass to the wider conversations and some form of progress is possible should this happen. There is too much linguistic violence happening globally and we want to create safe spaces, where opponents and protagonists actually hear and understand each other.

Israeli / Palestinian Conflict

Despite the unfinished business of the Irish Peace Process, there are still a lot of key learning lessons for those still in conflict and those emerging from conflict globally. Rethinking Conflict has been working extensively on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Gary the organisations Executive Director is regularly hosting groups from this conflict in Belfast. In the last five years a number of key groups and leading individuals from the Middle East have spent time in Belfast alongside Gary, learning some of the lessons from the Irish peace process in a community, religious, political and psychological setting. Over 1000 key individuals from the Middle East have been to Belfast in the last five years and have been exposed to the painful, difficult journey to peace in the Northern Irish context. These people are key opinion makers across all sections of society from politicians, academics, religious leaders, government officials and leaders of NGO’s, both Israeli and Palestinian. Participants learn and experience how demilitarisation and conflict resolution has occurred in Ireland between warring religious factions. As a result, they can begin to have hope and believe in the potential for Middle East peace because other groups have achieved this goal. These experiences offer a shift in mindset from one of despair to one of hope, this combined with practical tools allow a realistic and fruitful dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

Gary has been a regular visitor to the Middle East engaging, facilitating lecturing and speaking at NGO’s, colleges, universities both Palestinian and Israeli from Ben Gurion University, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, Bar Ilan University, the Arab American University.

 

United States of America

Gary grew up in the cockpit of sectarianism in Northern Ireland, as a young boy he watched his community descend into a bitter sectarian civil war, fuelled by hundreds of years of toxic theology, obsession with identity and land and in many cases a nationalistic identity that superseded any biblical Christian identity. Gary has commented that we have a troubled history of bad theology, a theology of superiority that emphasised difference and isolated the other. He underlines how we dehumanised the other, spoke badly of the other and as the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel rightly comments, “Dehumanisation precedes genocide” and “It was words not machines that created Auschwitz.”

Hubert Butler the Irish historian talks about the sores of Irish history. Gary works in a number of settings in the USA looking at sores of history that continue to haunt both our societies in the guise of racism and sectarianism. It is strongly arguethat high levels of sectarianism and racism are more than just a coincidence. In fact, there are complex linkages and relationships between them.  Both develop from a ‘politics of difference, ’that move upward through a ‘pyramid of hate.‘ 

Gary works across a number of settings in the United States exploring racism and sectarianism and in conjunction with a variety of different groups looks at ways we can address the toxic natures of these isms in an honest, open context. He also explores toxic theology, the role of memory in building peace and the role of toxic theology and its destructive behaviour.