In this week’s guest post Jack reflects on recent events –
Back in the 1990s I used to manage transnational environmental education projects in partnership with other colleges and universities around Europe producing shared learning materials. Over the eight years or so that this work continued I visited Brussels a number of times for conferences and meetings of my various partners. So the news of the bombings at Brussels airport and metro station yesterday seemed more personal than other similar atrocities in the past.
It’s tempting in the face of such events to opt for two approaches – batten down the hatches and go nowhere, or call for an even more extreme military crackdown.
In my opinion neither of them are very sensible –
Despite the media hype (which rarely headline similar atrocities on Muslim populations by the same small minority), the chances of being caught up in this kind of attack are infinitesimally low; and the military strategy inevitably involves killing a great many innocent people and simply reinforces the perception among Muslims generally that they are subject to a new ‘crusade’. The ill-advised adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Chechnya are precisely what have led to the present position.
As a Quaker I believe very strongly in non-violent and peaceful solutions to conflict. The proof that this approach can work is to be found in Northern Ireland where my good friend, storyteller Liz Weir, worked tirelessly with others to bring the two sides together through shared culture. Eventually a dialogue was initiated which resulted in the ‘Good Friday Agreement’, something which was largely satisfactory to both sides. Many hundreds of deaths over many years failed to bring about the resolution that patient discussion and openness to dialogue did achieve.
I’ve observed that most conflicts around the world have eventually had to be resolved in the end by two sides sitting down and talking. I believe this will happen in this current situation eventually as well and I’d prefer it to be sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, my heart goes out to the folk who were caught up in the events in Brussels yesterday as well as in Istanbul, Ankara and Yemen in the last couple of weeks.