Saint Mary’s University is participating in “Twenty Years of Peace: Progress and Possibilities in Northern Ireland,” hosted November 29 and 30 at Yale University.
The symposium brings together academics, community leaders, politicians and architects of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 marked a formal end to the conflict in Northern Ireland.
“Our Northern Ireland Peace Education Program has existed for 14 of the past 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement,” notes Bridget Brownlow, SMU’s Conflict Resolution Advisor and President of Peaceful Schools International.
She and Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray, President and Vice-Chancellor of Saint Mary’s, are attending as invited discussants at the symposium on Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr. Summerby-Murray’s academic research and teaching interests include cultural and historical geography in Northern Ireland; and he has been a strong champion for SMU’s collaboration with Peaceful Schools International, as well as experiential learning and global engagement.
Fresh from receiving the 2018 Peace Medal from the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth on Thursday (Nov. 22), Brownlow looks forward to taking part in the Yale event. Her public panel session, “The Future(s) of Northern Ireland,” is chaired by Dr. Richard N. Hasse, an American diplomat long involved in efforts toward Northern Ireland’s peace process. Fellow participants include Simon Coveney, Tánaiste (deputy head) of the government of Ireland; Karen Bradley, British MP and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; General John de Chastelain, a member of the International Advisory Board for Peaceful Schools International; and others.
“My role will be to speak to the unique and progressive nature of our peace education programming, whereby we are sharing the same peace education resources locally as we are with children in Northern Ireland,” says Brownlow.
“We have 14 years of very positive relationships with educators and more than 20 primary schools in Belfast, and those relationships are as strong as ever. It’s not unusual to hear people there say ‘the world has forgotten about us’. It’s always very reassuring that they know we at Saint Mary’s University and Peaceful Schools International have not forgotten about the people living in a post-conflict Northern Ireland.”
Saint Mary’s is also keen to continue a working relationship with researchers at Yale in relation to peace education. Brownlow and Dr. Bonnie Weir, a political science professor at Yale, are looking at ways for the two universities to collaborate and “we hope to find a way to bring Yale students to experience and possibly replicate our program in Northern Ireland,” she said.
The symposium is co-presented by Queen’s University Belfast and the Poynter Fellowship of Journalism. Notable attendees also include Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the U.K.; Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach of Ireland (1997-2008); U.S. Senator George Mitchell; and many others.
Last month, with support from SMU and SMUSA, Peaceful Schools International launched three new storybooks written and illustrated by three Halifax junior high students. The resource books will be distributed to elementary schools in Nova Scotia and during the next SMU visit to Northern Ireland in February. The books have generated a great deal of interest – more detail can be found in these recent media reports:
· Halifax students produce books to help promote peaceful schools (CBC Nova Scotia, Nov. 19, 2018)
· Kids books created by kids (CBC Facebook videos, Nov. 19, 2018)
· N.S. girl pens picture books to help other kids with conflict resolution (CTV News, Nov. 20, 2018)
Photos by Stoo Metz