Friday, 19 August 2011

Peacemaking - ten practices and ten principles

I've recently been pointed to the 'Just Peacemaking Initiative ... seeking peace and justice as disciples of Christ', a model of conflict resolution supported by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). A team of thirty scholars (ethicists, economists, experts in international relations, and conflict resolution practitioners) together asked the question, 'What realistically is working to prevent real wars?' And out of this they agreed on ten practices that build peace and make war less likely. These practices fall into three categories: peacemaking initiatives, working for justice, and fostering love and community. You can read more about them here - click on the tab 'Just Peacemaking'.

In 'Tony Blair, A Journey', he describes ten central principles of resolution which arose out of his experience of The Good Friday Agreement, and reinforced by his experience in the Middle East:

  1. At the heart of any conflict resolution must be a framework based on agreed principles.
  2. To proceed to resolution, the thing needs to be gripped and focused on.
  3. In conflict resolution, small things can be big things.
  4. Be creative.
  5. The conflict won't be resolved by the parties if left to themselves.
  6. Realise that for both sides resolving the conflict is a journey, a process, not an event.
  7. The path to peace will be deliberately disrupted by those who believe the conflict must continue.
  8. The quality of leaders matter.
  9. The external circumstances must militate in favour of, not against, peace.
  10. Never give up, simple but essential.
In my experience of church life, as a church member, a Minister, and particularly as a Regional Minister which involves me in coming alongside churches in conflict, conflict is inevitable, it's a given. It needn't be destructive and can be positive and creative - the Chinese symbols for conflict are a combination of danger and opportunity. But for this to happen it does require some skills, and where a conflict has got stuck, often someone from outside the situation can make a significant difference.

While there are differences between peacemaking on the international scene and in a local church, actually they aren't so far apart and both Tony Blair's ten principles and Just Peacemaking's ten practices provide much to reflect upon.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The riots - 'profound theology and sharp social commentary'

Amidst the plethora of opinion and comment on the riots, I've been looking for the sort of reflection and analysis that stands out as being of a special quality and depth. My Regional Minister colleague Phil Jump has written a helpful piece here. And on Wednesday, Simon Jones, at a sideways glance, flagged up what I think is a particularly insightful and penetrating piece by Luke Bretherton, really worth reading. As Simon says, 'profound theology meets sharp social commentary'. Click here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

oops! - Chailly and Pires

I discovered this video clip through Rob and Laura, friends we met in Puglia. They're from Holland so are familiar with Riccardo Chailly who was the chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. I had the privilege of working with Chailly for two weeks when I was nineteen, and then for a month when I was twenty-one, in a festival in Montepuliciano, in Tuscany. He was the most inspiring conductor I ever experienced, and at that stage he was in his early to mid twenties.

In the clip, as Pires realises that she's prepared the wrong Mozart concerto, the two have a conversation over the music. Two things strike me. Firstly, Chailly's 'non-anxious presence'. This scenario could be absolutely disastrous, artistically and professionally, but he continues as if there's nothing wrong and importantly inspires confidence in Pires that 'I'm sure you'll do that - you know it too well!'. And second, that despite Pires' obvious anxious presence, when she makes her entry it's heartbreakingly beautiful and perfect. She is the consummate professional, not allowing the anxiety to drown her and drawing on her vast reservoir of skill, experience, and preternatural talent.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Holiday in Southern Italy with Tony Blair


I've just got back from Cisternino, in Southern Italy, where we've spent the past two weeks. We've been there before and it was great to become re-aquainted and also make other discoveries of this beautiful part of Puglia, including Masseria Selvaggi, the Agritoursmo farmhouse where we stayed, and Materia (photo).

One of the reasons we return to Southern Italy is the climate. Again, the weather didn't disappoint, although there were a couple of blowy days and at the beginning of the holiday some cloud with even a bit of rain.

And then there's the food. We ate at a number of restaurants where all you needed was the antipasta. The most expensive meal by far was €55 for two, including wine and liqueurs, and that was at Il Portico, a vegetarian restaurant, which doesn't have a menu, the food just keeps coming. At another restaurant we shared a starter of mussels and for €8 were served 44 of the largest mussels ever. I followed this with a dish of raw salmon and sword-fish, something of an adventure, which proved to be delicious. I did order a side-dish of patatine fritte, i.e. chips, which just goes to prove that you can take the man out of Barking but can't take Barking out of the man!

And then there were the great people we met: Graham, Patrice, Cameron and Nathan; Andrea, Phil, Lewis, Bella and Eve; and especially Rob and Laura who we really missed when they moved up to Tuscany for the second week and hope to meet up with again. We also met David and his family, and it transpired that he was the architect who designed Milton Keynes Railway Station.

The place itself had a fantastic swimming pool, one that you could actually swim in. You could also lie on sunbeds and read, and so to Tony Blair - and no, we weren't staying with Silvio Berlusconi.

Between us we took a pile of books we were looking forward to reading. Cazz read many of them but the day before we went, 'Tony Blair, A Journey', took my eye in Waterstones, and as I dipped into it I found myself drawn. I ended up buying it at the airport and that's all I read - it's 720 pages and the type's fairly small!

I found it compelling and the praise on the back cover and on three pages at the beginning of the book was not exaggerated in my opinion. This memoir gives huge insight into the man and his perspective on what went on behind the scenes during some significant national and world events. It provided me with a greater understanding of the philosophy of New Labour and a deeper appreciation of where the Labour party now finds itself. There are many penetrating insights about effective leadership of an organisation, and indeed a country. And above all it challenged me to think deeply about a number of key issues for our world, seen in their stark reality in the events that have filled the UK national news over the last week or so. Add to this, a relatively light touch with numerous laugh-out-loud passages, and it made a superb read.

I was particularly struck by his reflections on the Middle East, and especially his analysis of the Muslim world. I was fascinated by the statement that he makes a number of times that he's more passionate about religion than politics. In the light of this I guess it's not surprising that these emphases have taken expression in his role as the Quartet Representative to the Middle East and the launching of his Faith Foundation.

If I'm not buried by a mountain of emails over the next few days I might reflect some more, but otherwise, 'Tony Blair, A Journey', comes highly recommended. And I still have a pile of books to look forward to I don't know when!