This podcast comes alongside our accompanying documentary series that explores places of conflict and the redemptive stories that have emerged from the tragedy of religious and sectarian violence. Join us as we seek to profile, celebrate and be inspired by peacemakers from around the world...
Moya Brennan: Ireland, Music and Faith.
Moya Brennan is one of Ireland’s most well known and beloved singers. Her band Clannad are known all over the world and their music is a wondrous blend of Celtic fusion and traditional irish folk music. Moya is a beautiful soul with a deep faith who loves the environment. Clannad came to Rostrevor last summer in July 2019 to play at the village’s famous folk festival, Fiddlers Green. We recorded this interview the night after their amazing sold out gig.
Ramy & Roula Taleb: Teaching Forgiveness in Lebanon
This podcast is the story of the remarkable work of Ramy and Roula Taleb, how they journeyed to Belfast and are now making peace in Lebanon. For the last 18 years Jonny and Jenn Clark and their team have raised funds for young Christians from areas of conflict to spend 6-12 months in Belfast or Rostrevor, Northern Ireland learning about reconciliation and how their faith can build peace in their communities. Ramy was the first Lebanese trainee and landed into Belfast in 2005, barely speaking English but with a deep hunger to learn from the experience. He ended up spending five years in Belfast, particularly working in the Shankill and Falls areas. One of the projects Ramy focused on in Belfast was a project which takes Forgiveness education into many Protestant and Catholic schools in the city.
By 2010 Ramy had married the beautiful Roula and together they started a new life back in Lebanon, ultimately starting a sister project of the Belfast work called the Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation (ffrlebanon.org). The work in Lebanon is unprecedented in it’s radical commitment to building bridges throughout the sectarian divides of this post-civil war country. Ramy and Roula are courageously taking forgiveness, reconciliation and peace-building training to as many people as they can and are often doing it with what little resources they can find. If you are looking to support a grass-roots charity in the Middle East you should check out the work of FFR and get behind them.
This work in Lebanon is something all of the GOTF team are passionate about and it’s why Josh Eaves (Instagram: @josheaves1) and Jonny Clark continue to be involved in different ways, including our plans to make our next Guardians Of The Flame documentary there. This episode was as usual recorded by the brilliant Fra Sands of @safeplacestudios. The music in our podcasts is by the brilliant Irish folk band @naleanai
Assaad Chaftari: From the Militia to Fighting For Peace
I have had the privilege of meeting Assaad Chaftari a few times now. He is a gentle man, a man of peace, a man of forgiveness who nevertheless witnessed and indeed played an active part in the horror of the Lebanese civil war. Assaad was a senior intelligence officer in the Christian militia called the “Lebanese Forces” and was responsible for the deaths of many. Assaad’s life changed through being introduced to the work of “Initiatives of Change” and as he began to turn his back on the sectarianism of the Civil War and embrace Reconciliation. In 2000 he came to prominence by printing a letter of apology in all of the Lebanese national newspapers. He apologised for what he had done, to those who he had killed and to their families and he offered forgiveness to those who had tried to kill him. Assaad has said “I would venture into the jaws of hell if my story could shift just one person's views and move them away from violence.” This is the first of our podcasts where we look at Lebanon and the tragedy of that country but also the beauty of those like Assaad who seek to pursue peace in the face of the devastation of war. Assaad is a member of a peace group called “Fighters for Peace” which brings together former enemies from the Lebanese Civil War and uses their stories to change hearts in the Lebanon of today. In this podcast we don’t discuss the current events of political change and unrest in the country. We focus more on the universal themes of peace and reconciliation that have been out worked through Assaad’s life. This is one of our most important podcasts I think we have released because it deals with such first hand experience of war.
Muhammad Al-Hussaini: A higher quality of disagreement.
Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini came to the attention of many when in 2015 he chose to defend in court the Pentecostal pastor Rev Jim McConnell from Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, Belfast’s biggest church. McConnell had preached a sermon where he categorised Islam as “heathen” and “satanic” and a “doctrine spawned in hell”. Yet Muhammad defended the pastor and developed a friendship with him. In court he defended McConnell’s right to free-speech. Muhammad is a Muslim from London with not only a love for Irish folk music but a commitment to building relationships of peace with Christians and Jews and those of other faiths from his own. Over the years he has visited Rostrevor a number of times and has become a strong friend of ours. One of Muhammad’s firm convictions is that we should not seek a bland peace between faiths. Rather we should be able to rigorously debate and defend our differences in a way that does not demonise but builds understanding through authentic dialogue. He calls this a “higher quality of disagreement”. This phrase has become one of the key back bones to a series of events at the centre Jonny leads called An Cuan. These events have been convened by Tommy Sands, Jonny Clark and www.artsawonder.com a local community arts and reconciliation initiative.
Peter Adams: Spaces of Grace in a Divided City
Peter Adams is a remarkable and courageous man of peace. He plays a crucial role in building community relations and sustaining genuine peace through dialogue and relationships in a very fractured context. Luton, on the northern edge of London is where Peter works and has been known as a place where both the far right English Defence League emerged, and a small group of extremist Muslims operated. Peter is one of a number of amazing faith leaders from both the Christian and Muslim communities who are leading the way in building bridges in their community. Peter has been awarded the Outstanding Citizen award by the mayor among other commendations. His whole work can be summed up as “creating a space of grace”. Follow Peter on @pgmadams or @stmaryspeace and his blog is reconciliationtalk.org/
David Archambault: Standing Rock Reservation, the Dakota Access Pipeline.
During the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline, David Archambault was the leader of the Standing Rock nation. As the tribal Chairman he had the challenging role of negotiating with the oil executives, politics, Barack Obama, activists and his ow people. David articulated the reality of historic trauma of his people, and the 40% poverty rate among Native people. He spoke about his father's experience of boarding schools, where kids as young as 4 would be forcibly removed from their parents and placed in schools where it was attempted to 'kill the Indian, save the man'. David is a peaceable, humble man. The Native American understanding of the interconnectedness of all of the environment was beautiful. In the face of growing inequality that is manifesting in a deepening climate crisis, humanity will do well to be lead by a way of life exemplified by the indigenous populations of North America.