Study visit from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina September 24th to October 1st 2018.
We were pleased to have 20 guests of which 10 came from Croatia and 10 from BIH,5 of whom were from the Bosnian Federation Sanski Most and 5 were from Prijedor in the Serbian controlled area Republika Srpska. The group was multi ethnic and multi faith,18 women and 2 men.
The visit followed the pattern of past years of having three nights away then spending the time with hosts, visiting Coventry Cathedral, local schools, churches and Nuneaton Mosque. Two parts of the visit were different this year.
We stayed at Purley Chase centre near Atherstone in wonderful surroundings, because Barnes Close is no longer available.
Secondly, we invited Jo Berry and Pat Magee to be with us to speak at a public meeting and to lead a workshop on the following day. Without a doubt this was the real focus of the week to listen to Jo and Pat speak on the theme of ‘Making peace with the enemy.’ Jo’s father Sir Anthony Berry was killed in the IRA bomb attack in Brighton at the Conservative party conference on 12th October 1984 and Pat Magee planted the bomb. Jo and Pat now share a platform together exploring Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
The dialogue between Jo and Pat was riveting and their openness to each other and to the audience in sharing their thoughts and feelings was quite stunning. We were privileged to have Jo lead a workshop on the morning after and we were able to ask questions to Jo and Pat. He shared the fact that he had joined the IRA at 20 years of age and was sentence for 50 years in prison but he was released under the Good Friday agreement after 14 years. Jo’s willingness to meet with Pat ’got under his defences’ and he sat with Jo for 3 hours trying to explain why he had joined the IRA. He said that Jo listened
intently, asking sharp questions and he concluded that it was rare to meet someone from England who understood the situation in Northern Ireland.
Some comments from participants
❖‘Their story (Jo and Pat) made me think about how I feel facing my traumas.’
❖‘They have shown that reconciliation is possible in practice not only in theory’
❖‘Workshops were very well prepared and planned and they challenged my thinking.’
❖‘At the Mosque we learned many new things about Muslims and got rid of prejudices.’
❖‘Visiting Methodist Churches was a warm, interesting and memorable experience.’
Our thanks to all who made the visit possible especially the hosts who made their guests feel at home and to Dorn for all the admin work.
It was a busy intense week and we hope and pray it will contribute toward the group continuing on their journey of learning to live in a reconciling way in their own settings.
Special thanks to the landlord of the WHITE HART pub in Ridge Lane who welcomed the group warmly and gave the Bosnian group the opportunity to sing songs in their own language! The pub, filled with locals loved it!
For further information please contact
Judith Halliday Mediation and Community Support 07594 653 530
MAKING PEACE WITH THE ENEMY
A report from the public meeting held on Tuesday 25th September 2018 @ Nuneaton Methodist Church, as part of the Footprints-Touch of Hope UK Residential visit.
Guest Speakers Pat Mcgee and Jo Berry.
‘A man of exceptional cruelty and inhumanity ‘were the words used by the judge to describe Pat Magee at his trial in September 1986 for his part in planting the bomb at the Grand Hotel Brighton in 1984 which killed 5 people and injured 54 people. One of the people killed was the MP Sir Anthony Berry. On September 25th at Nuneaton Methodist Church, the so called ‘cruel’ man appeared with Jo Berry, the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry. The title of the talk was ‘MAKING PEACE WITH THE ENEMY, Exploring Forgiveness and Reconciliation’.
The meeting was part of the Touch of Hope programme for the visiting group from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and we were very fortunate to have Jo and Pat join us for the morning after for a workshop.
I have heard Jo and Pat speak together several times and I have always been inspired when I heard them. When we have the Touch of Hope Workshop on Forgiveness, my colleague and I ‘role play’ Jo and Pat’s story. What normally happens on workshops is that people get angry with Jo for daring to even want to forgive Pat. People ask, ’how can somebody forgive after so heinous a crime and how can a person even contemplate placing a bomb with the intent of killing people? What made Pat join the IRA?’ These were some of the underlying questions on people’s minds at the meeting.
Listening to Jo and Pat invited us to move beyond the stereotypes and demonisation to see the man himself and to hear about their journey of reconciliation, sometimes turbulent and painful and rich with honest and sincere encounter. Jo did not want revenge and wanted to give up blaming. She wanted to meet the man behind the bomb.
Pat received eight life sentences but was released from prison in 1999, having served fourteen years, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. He had joined the IRA at the age of twenty. Pat spoke about the impact of receiving Jo’s letter requesting a meeting with him. He felt both a political and moral obligation to contribute to the Peace Process and decided to accede to Jo’s request and so began this journey of reconciliation for them both. They first
sat together for three hours during which time Pat shared why he Joined the IRA. He was impressed with how much Jo knew about the conflict and said it was rare to meet someone from England who ‘understood the situation in Northern Ireland’ I was very challenged by this myself. Pat shared how hard it must have been for Jo. By her listening and empathy, Pat said, ’Jo got under my defences’.
This last statement from Pat gave me hope that it is possible to break through the walls of loyalty to a cause which does not care about killing individuals to such an extent that a terrorist can stop and start to think about the consequences of his or her violent actions upon an individual.
Jo Berry’s journey of self-discovery and Pat Magee’s soul searching was challenging to all present, not least to our visitors who themselves struggle to live in a reconciling way in their own communities of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Revd Clive R Fowle Coordinator Touch of Hope