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The thoughts and views of the team of peace builders here at the Peace Centre

Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness - make a difference every day a contribution to Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 The Peace Foundation was founded in 1995...

Random Acts of Kindness - make a difference every day a contribution to Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 The Peace Foundation was founded in 1995 following a terrorist attack in 1993 as part of a thirty year conflict we call 'the troubles' on our islands.  In the aftermath of the bombing that killed children, two of many killed as part of the conflict, the parents of one of the boys, Tim Parry, decided to act, not in anger or hatred, but with kindness, to seek to try and ensure no other parent went thorough what they did. They set up a charity and to this date, the charity works to stop terrorism and support those affected by violent conflict. The Peace Foundation is at the forefront of helping improve people's mental health in a variety of ways.  One of those ways is by promoting kindness.  Kindness to yourself and kindness to others.  The process of reconciliation on our islands continues and the Peace Foundation is funded by the Northern Ireland Victims and Survivors Service to provide health and welfare support to people in Great Britain affected by the troubles. Since the start of the Covid 19 crisis, we have been providing additional support, along with VSS providers across Northern Ireland. Today, along with VSS, we are asking people to think about being kind to themselves and others.  Peter Topping, who is a case manager in the Victims and Survivors Service has asked us to watch a short film and penned these words: "Staying positive, motivated and active during these uncertain times is difficult and can be a struggle. "As we take time this week to reflect during Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share with you a short film and talk on how to stay young, healthier, motivated and have a greater sense of feeling empowered to face the challenges ahead. "The theme of the talk is “one small act of kindness”.  Acts like the appreciation of key workers/ NHS staff on a Thursday evening, fundraising challenges, food bank donations and family and neighbours supporting each other. "That act of giving and being kind, allows us to support others but it also helps to improve our self-esteem, self-worth, energy and a sense of wellbeing. It allows us to feel good about ourselves knowing that the “one small act of kindness” has made a difference and helped someone else either smile, laugh, eat, sleep or just improved their day. "My wife is an ICU nurse working in the Belfast Nightingale City Hospital at present and she has  told me about the multiple acts of kindness from patients families, friends and strangers and how it has made a massive difference to the mental health and wellbeing of all the NHS staff members. "The work you are doing everyday within your organisations is life changing for many - the extra phone call, the food package, the delivery of a prescription is holding the most vulnerable in our communities together, building stronger relationships....

Peace – Prosperity – Friendship

Peace Prosperity Friendship Among the red and blue lights, flags, cakes, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding canapes and various departing tropes being trailed around the...

Peace Prosperity Friendship Among the red and blue lights, flags, cakes, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding canapes and various departing tropes being trailed around the United Kingdom today, is a charming little 50p coin with the inscription. “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations” and today’s date, January 31. Now, before we start, yes there is the matter of a missing comma, but, leaving that aside (see my solution at the end of this post), the words on the coin, are powerful, particularly that word peace. There is no real way of predicting what impact our leaving the European Union will mean for a lasting peace, but, whilst trade agreements and other highly political positioning will dominate, we need to commit ourselves to the pursuit of sustainable peace. Those that use violence, the extremists who seek to destabilise society and the terrorists, have no respect for borders.  In many of the recent incidents of violence, people impacted have come from all parts of the UK, Europe and beyond.  Terrorism is not a crime against individuals or locality, it is one against society. Our work in preventing terrorism, and supporting people affected, has a truly international dimension.  Our reconciliation efforts and some of the health and well being support is funded by the European Commission, sharing of best practice comes from membership of pan European networks, and the European Commission has just announced the award of a seven figure Euro contract to a consortium to create the European centre of expertise for victims of terrorism.  It is unclear what, if any, role we will now play in that. Isolation is not the answer, and neither is clamming together as a homogenous group.  We need cognitive diversity and collective effort to achieve peace. The Peace Foundation will work to keep promoting peace at all levels: individual, family, neighbourhood, regional, national and international.  We will seek to continue our active role across the European continent.  We will also ask for your support to do this. The missing Oxford comma is perhaps not the most pressing matter today as three million coins hit the streets, with a further seven million to follow.  There are also three versions of the coin available to buy from the Mint - an uncirculated cupro-nickle version for £10, a silver proof for £60 and a gold proof for £945.  The most expensive coins have now all been reserved but the cheaper two are still available to purchase.  But, if any of our supporters or donors are struggling with the grammar, then we would be delighted to take them off you or receive coins as a donation.  With your Gift Aid agreement, we could increase the value and make that engraved word of peace a reality! TO DONATE CLICK HERE

Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ are never far away for many

The challenges faced by the people of Northern Ireland have been prominent in the press lately. With the widely-reported border issues related to the Brexit...

The challenges faced by the people of Northern Ireland have been prominent in the press lately. With the widely-reported border issues related to the Brexit process, the breakdown of the Northern Ireland Executive and frequent reports of consultations to address the legacy of the ‘Troubles’ that blighted the region for decades, it seems that once again Northern Ireland and its historical conflict is in the public consciousness in a way not seen for 20 years. I grew up in England in the 1990’s and I can honestly say that I had little knowledge of the pain and the suffering caused by the ‘Troubles’. From speaking to friends and peers, it seems this is not unusual. For a long time, the problems that the people of Northern Ireland faced were just not talked about to any great degree on this side of the water. I’m sure, however, if you are a survivor or victim of the ‘Troubles’, if someone you love was killed, if you were injured or received psychological injuries as a result of a ‘Troubles’ related incident, then your awareness of the legacy of that time is inordinately painful and not something that will ever leave you. There are some amazing services in Northern Ireland offering support to some of the people mentioned above. The Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland commissions a wide range of organisations to provide psychosocial and clinical interventions for people who have been affected by the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Organisations such as Wave Trauma Care offer a specialist approach to supporting victims and survivors, and offer training to individuals and organisations in Trauma Informed Practice. Whilst the above is much needed and expertly delivered, the Stormont House Agreement (2014) recognises the needs of victims who do not live in Northern Ireland. 622 people from the Island of Britain were killed during the ‘Troubles’, and it is believed that thousands of people received physical or psychological injuries as a direct result of their experiences of a ‘Troubles-related incident’. In addition to this, according to a Northern Ireland Assembly report, Northern Ireland lost approximately 20,000 people from its population during the years correlating with the ‘Troubles’. So, we can assume that a large proportion of the Northern Irish diaspora living in England, Scotland or Wales are also in need of services – given that we know the associated injuries can be lifelong. A new service for victims and survivors in England, Scotland and Wales In 2003, The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation was commissioned to produce a report which made recommendations for supporting survivors and victims of the ‘Troubles’ who live in England, Scotland and Wales. Since then,we have campaigned for services to be commissioned to meet these recommendations. In 2017, we were finally successful in our campaign and the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland commissioned two Health and Wellbeing Caseworkers to provide services on the island of Great Britain. We now have a full-time member of staff offering health and...

understanding clicks into place peace foundation

When understanding ‘clicks’ into place…

I have experienced some moments of magic during my short time working for the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation - when understanding 'clicks' into...

I have experienced some moments of magic during my short time working for the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation - when understanding 'clicks' into place so tangibly that you almost hear it happening.  I joined the team of facilitators at the Peace Foundation a few months ago. One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of my induction has been going out to schools and youth clubs to support the delivery of educational sessions which the Peace Foundation has developed over the years.   Families for Peace Working with more experienced colleagues is a great way to learn about the organisation, and has helped me to plan one of our new programmes, ‘Families for Peace’, which has just begun in Liverpool and Rochdale. It is also really inspiring to meet teachers, children and young people from schools across the north of England.    Another big part of my induction has been looking at the monitoring information which facilitators collect about our work. We do this to show the people from government departments, councils and schools who fund our work the evidence that it is effective.   This is part of being accountable, and it helps make the case for supporting our work going forward. We gather information in a variety of ways, depending on the type of activity we are doing, and always taking account of confidentiality issues.    Our recordings include questionnaires; evaluations by the school about the effect which students’ learning has had on their behaviour, and – in the case of our accredited courses – some written work to test knowledge and track the way that people have developed their understanding and views. Taking photographs of some of our interactive activities and to capture the ideas and visions which people write up and draw on flipcharts and boards adds a visual dimension.  How do you capture the magic moments? Often, though, our sessions generate moments which it is quite a challenge to capture in a survey or session write-up.  One morning recently, I was with a class of ten-year olds in a primary school in West Yorkshire.  The session was part of ‘Small Steps for Peace’ – an interactive educational programme that’s very popular with teachers and children wherever it’s delivered. The lessons are a mixture of lively games and time for reflection.   One game involves walking around the school hall and following instructions about how we move. After a bit, the instructions get mixed up so that you have got to think extra hard about what you are meant to do. There’s laughter and concentration as we make mistakes – and as we do the right thing.   Later on, pupils form groups to do role plays based on how they act with each other in the canteen, or at break time. It’s all about group dynamics, emotions, and misunderstandings.   One thing I notice is how honest and clear ten-year olds can be about what they are doing and feeling. One boy said that acting out the role of...

Christchurch attack

Comment from our CEO: Christchurch attack

Waking up this morning (Friday 15th March 2019), many of us share in the horror unfolding in Christchurch, New Zealand.  People coming together to practice...

Waking up this morning (Friday 15th March 2019), many of us share in the horror unfolding in Christchurch, New Zealand.  People coming together to practice their faith have had their lives taken away or changed forever by the murderous acts of a few individuals who believe that extreme violence against their fellow human beings is justified.  To reflect on the words of New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, it is the darkest of days. Violent conflict is an ever present reality. In my job, as Chief Executive of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that stands for peace and is a leading specialist in the prevention, resolution and response to violent conflict, I receive daily reports of terrorism incidents around the world. A global issue I meet many people affected by such acts.  Last week I was in Madrid, my visit coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the attacks on that city.  I met with the Director and Deputy Director General at the Support to Victims of Terrorism unit at the Spanish Ministry of Interior.  It was a privilege to attend the opening of an exhibition “Vivir sin miedo. Vivir con memoria”, by the Asociación de Víctimas del Terrorismo, translated as Living without fear / Living with memory. Members of my team traveled to Brussels with British survivors of incidents in Paris, London Westminster and Manchester.  They stood in solidarity with our European friends as the EU commemorated the annual day of remembrance for victims of terrorism.  This week, I was a guest of the Portugese Security and Intelligence Services in Lisbon alongside Police from Finland (Turku 2017), France (Paris 2015) and emergency responders (Barcelona 2017).  I was alongside a mother who lost her son to the warped ideologies of Daesh. Next week, I will visit Northern Ireland to promote continued reconciliation on our islands and attend commemorations of anniversaries including the Warrington bombing and the London Westminster attack.  Like the Founders of the Peace Foundation, Colin and Wendy Parry, everyone I met, from far and wide, has the same aim. Nobody should ever go through this sort of event again and that we must work to end violent conflict. Violence sets the tone for hatred Those who use violence, as we've seen in Christchurch this morning, do so to create division, hatred, fear and terror.  They use very stark, brutal and horrific methods to do this and they do so to create a reaction.  Their methods and communication is binary.  It is about 'us and 'them' and about creating 'the other' - it sets people apart, drives division and sets the tone for hatred.  The vast majority of people are immune to this, but our media and politicians are not, and often their response is in rhetoric and simplistic solutions driven by 'knee-jerk' and emotional reactions. Already today, in response to the events in Christchurch, there are numerous people 'parachuting in' with unchecked, and at time, odious opinion.  I have heard and seen some...

THINK project Peace Foundation

THINK Project: Cleaning the Bridge

When groups of young people as part of our THINK project come to The Peace Centre, we try (weather and time permitting), to take them...

When groups of young people as part of our THINK project come to The Peace Centre, we try (weather and time permitting), to take them to the Bridge Street memorial. This always proves to be significant and moving. March 1993 comes that much closer; no longer told about, but witnessed, touched and heard. I have over the years heard comments like “it’s a bit like where I live”, or “I can’t believe something like that happened here”. People walking past going about their daily business, the chatter and bustle prove that Warrington was and is an ordinary town. A town though where something extraordinary happened, something brutal and painful, but this pain need not shape everything. Instead something useful, hopeful and permanent can emerge from un-predicted and undeserved horror. Remembering the bombs The Sculpture and the River of Life in Warrington town centre are pleasing, calming, and sobering. Sometimes the most boisterous of groups find themselves silenced when standing close to where the bombs went off. The bronze sculpture, the faces and the flow and trickle of water offers strong, sturdy and unspoken hope. One time with a group from Swindon, a woman came over and proudly announced that her son had made one of the hand imprints, “he’s a bit bigger now though, probably wouldn’t fit”. Life goes on and people grow, and all the better when we do not meet violence with the same, when we make spaces for people to be together, and to feel peace. One route to town takes us over the white concrete Bridge near the centre. It is often useful to point out the expansion joints; the flexible parts of a bridge that prevent cracking and destruction during changes of temperature. Flexibility is essential in times of adversity, in conflict options are better than rigid dogma. The white smooth surfaces of the bridge have also, unfortunately served as a canvas for some with less flexible mindsets. Messages of division Earlier in the year we took a Group from Cedar Mount Academy across the bridge and saw that a range of hate statements had been scrawled and sprayed on the paintwork. Ugly, unpleasant rhetoric all punctuated with hastily drawn swastikas. The daubings were rushed, haphazard and amateur, but no less worrisome or offensive. The impact was visible and audible, here in plain view was the contradiction of all we had been cultivating at The Peace Centre. This group was, I think it is fair to say, normally the very opposite of quiet, but disbelief stunned them into silence. How could this be? There was anger and distress, but this was not expressed in the form of retaliation, instead there was puzzlement. “Why hasn’t it been cleaned off?". And then, “Maybe we could clean it”.  The seed was planted, and a decision made, and after a chat with Steve the maintenance man, we were equipped with some emery paper and determination. The next day over half of the group spent time scrubbing and rubbing away...

Supporting victims of terror: The SENSE model

In the aftermath of a terrorist incident, there is often confusion amongst front-line professionals and those who have been affected as to when and how...

In the aftermath of a terrorist incident, there is often confusion amongst front-line professionals and those who have been affected as to when and how to provide social support to victims of terror, and when a referral to clinical services should be made. This confusion may lead to variation in the care and support that is offered to those who have been affected, depending on their location and the organisations and professionals they encounter following the incident. Reinforcing Resilience Encouragingly, there is evidence emerging from experts in the field who suggest that the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder amongst victims of terror is no higher than those who are affected by other traumatic events. These same experts urge that a shift in focus is required, from an emphasis on vulnerability to reinforcing the resilience of those affected; rather than assuming high levels of trauma we should recognise the potential for coping, adjustment and recovery. Introducing SENSE At the same time, the National Institute of Clinical Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recognises the need for the ‘active monitoring’ of symptoms and for early referral to mental health services should symptoms worsen or not improve within a four to six-week watchful waiting period. Drawing on the recommendations of the NICE guidelines and the growing literature on trauma-informed practice, the SENSE model was established in response to the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017.  It provides a framework for social support in the immediate aftermath of a terror incident and over the longer term, and is referenced by our survivors assistance network in their support of victims and survivors. The model comprises of five key interventions in working with victims: Stabilisation Education Normalisation Social support Engagement The order of the letters in creating the word ‘sense’, also reflect the chronology in which the interventions should be offered. The five interventions focus on addressing the immediate practical and emotional needs of those affected and providing education and information to enable and empower people to monitor their own symptoms (or those of their family members). The next stage is to reassure victims and survivors that their experiences in the immediate aftermath are entirely normal, to reduce any sense of panic or feelings of distress. In addition, the model seeks to encourage the rallying of a person’s wider social support networks in recognition of the key role that friends and family will play in a person’s recovery. The final stage, ‘engagement’ is focused on facilitating the early referral to specialist support services (such as mental health services) as part of the ongoing process of active monitoring.  This would be initiated after the watchful waiting period has passed and the first four interventions have been offered to enable a focus on resilience, building strengths and supporting coping in the first instance. Clarity Empowers The increasing attention which has been paid to mental health and psychological wellbeing following an incident of terror may cause confusion and panic amongst survivors, their families and front-line professionals about if, when and...

Preventing violent extremism is all about fairness

Another day, another article about the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST. In his commentary (published in the Conversation 18th December 2018),...

Another day, another article about the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST. In his commentary (published in the Conversation 18th December 2018), Julian Hargreaves, Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute and Research Associate at St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge concludes that Prevent remains unfair on British Muslims, despite Home Office efforts. Such a conclusion is not new and is often used by detractors of Prevent who sway from the lazy rhetoric trotting out words like ‘toxic brand’ through to others, like Julian, who take a more considered view.  Of course, repetition makes a fact seem more true or memorable, but we also know that “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” – the first rule of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels.  This is known as the "illusion of truth" effect and perhaps poignant that an extreme right-wing violent extremist is associated with such a technique. The question for me is that the naysayers of Prevent are sometimes doing the same, when our energies really need to be on the end game and that is preventing violent extremism and tackling the causes. Julian sets out a fair critique and indeed points out that Prevent has become more transparent.  But the conclusion again fails to look at the whole picture. In his recent update on the number of live terror related investigations in the UK, head of national counterterror policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, told the Home Affairs Committee it numbered a record of 700.  He stated that Islamists and the far-right “feed each other.”  He said around 80 per cent of investigations by Police and MI5 were looking into Islamist inspired and 20 per cent “other”, including a “significant proportion from the right wing. “There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the two ideologies, both perverse, are feeding each other.” Neil Basu He also said: “The overriding threat to the UK remains from those inspired by Daesh and the resurgent al-Qaeda, but our operations reflect a much broader range of dangerous ideologies, including very disturbingly rising extreme right-wing activity.” He reported that 17 attacks had been foiled since 2017 – 13 Islamist (76%) and four far-right (24%). Prevent is a highly targeted strand of CONTEST, responding to risk and threat.  So, whilst Julian’s central point is valid and there may be ‘perceived’ unfairness, would these figures not suggest that the targeting is being driven by the evidence and that the real unfairness is created by the perpetrators. Behind this risk is a complex set of aspects that leads to such referrals. It is possible that public and public sector workers (the people who refer to Channel) are more afraid of Islamist extremism, or it is more visible, given the larger number of disrupted plots. It could be that the scale of those incidents that succeeded is more embedded in the collective psyche – ‘terrorism’ does what it says – it creates fear and generates a reaction.  Both the Manchester 2017 and...