Reflections on the Peace Conference

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L to R: Bessie White, Cate Tuitt

A guest article from our partner Cate Tuitt.

See the film of the conference here

I recently was part of organising and participating in the Peace building in the 21st century
conference.

Held at St Ethelburgas centre for reconciliation and peace, which was the site of the IRA Bishopsgate bomb, in the city of London in 1993.

Reflecting on the site, something good always comes out of something bad. I spoke on a panel theme of grassroots communities and peacebuilding, limits, challenges and opportunites.

Over 100 people attended the conference and there were scholars, religious leaders of all faiths, secularists, humanists and it was well supported by Catholics. Relationships and building trust, are fundamental to justice and peace. I was delighted that fellow panelists were the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, and I looked to find our common good in both our traditions.

I believe that peace can be achieved in our generation.

Too often we look at what differences we have, but the common good in peace building means we share much more as  Abrahamic traditions, than what separates, if at all.

From the crisis in the Middle East, to reducing conflict in our homes our streets, I found a huge resource in the event. Engaging with scholars, experts, faith and community leaders to discuss the limits and our challenges ahead.

Workshops on hostage negotiation , with participants with personal experience of Terry Waite, and I also met the son of the man who was the hostage negotiator at the Munich olympic games in Germany, 1972. 

Whilst recognising the difficulties in the Middle East at present, moving forward for dialogue in the region, which can only come from a justice based approach for all people in the Holy Lands.

Practical solutions and steps were resolved to be taken, like ethical purchases of services and goods that don’t support the arms trade and recognise the dignity of every human being.

My mind turned to London fashion week, which was going on this week, at the same time as the conference.

Genesis 4.9 asks, ‘who is your brother?’ Yet we see the injustice of clothes manufacturing in labour in factories in our global communities, where those who make our clothes, are often working in unsafe conditions. Like the Rana Plaza, Bangladesh factory in Dhaka Area which collapsed killing garment workers in 2013. Can we also continue to throw away food, when people are starving?.

So how do we break the cycle of violence and injustice?

We must invest in emerging tools and practices, such as social and emotional learning and life skills in schools, which through Catholic social teaching teach self awareness and the dignity of the human being.

Learn empathy, kindness and impulse control , motivation and social skills, which younger people can use as alternatives to violence and to stem the rise in knife crimes and hate crimes. We at the Westminster commission have just recently appointed a school youth worker, which will contribute to this vision.

In seeking justice, we must remember the victims. Restorative justice is a powerful and quickly growing model and movement, which I would like others to consider.
It offers healing-oriented methods as an alternative to current criminal justice approaches. These processes retain accountability while also creating conditions for conflict resolution to occur within, and leading up to, involvement in the criminal justice system.

Conflict resolution education and non violent communications curriculum and practices in schools, prisons that assist inmates to turn their lives around. Parenting classes, mindfulness and prayer.

The Bible and scriptures are also a huge resource out there to expand our capacity for empathy and love for one another. It’s time now, in our increasing world of conflicts, to bring these to scale. From the personal to the political. we must invest in these solutions, put our personal and collective time, attention, and resources towards them.

As justice and peace commission we need the resources and investment in the diocese to continue this vital work, to deliver on our mission through the cardinal and bishops’ conference.

Tackling the dominant "us against them!” worldview that so heavily permeates much of mainstream thinking.  We are living in a increasingly militarized society, where images of war are mooted as the means to resolve disagreements and conflicts by most in secular leadership.

As more and more people, of all faiths, cultures and traditions begin to share their stories of peace love and connection, as what we all so powerfully, did at the conference it will encourage others to do so as well.

It can and will be a wave that assists people to topple hatred, fear and oppression. For every person that turns to terrorism, or bullying, or violence of any kind, there are millions more who do not feel the hate or prejudice, who can be encouraged to our justice and peace path.

This is the great work before us, to change the world for the better, transforming lives and thankfully there are many great champions in our lives, who are leading the way.

Let’s follow course.

CATE TUITT

Sits upon the Justice and Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster. She qualified as a solicitor but does not practice. 
A trustee of Tower Hamlets law centre and a Board member of East London community land trust.

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