Women for Peace Oldham

New Year 2016 – it is time to be ‘waging peace not war’

January 4, 2016 | Nick Taylor

There is a certain naivety to the concept of a New Year. The difference between 31st December and 1st January is an entirely artificial construct that many of us hope will bring new resolve and most of all is represented through the word happy. It’s a great thing to celebrate, but today, more than any other day, reality bites!

Monday 4th January brings many of us ‘back down to earth’ and the mass return to work, school, college and dare I say it – ‘normality’ – will bring a whole heap of feelings out. Having said that, the festive period often acts as a catalyst for change. Some of it, not that positive. I heard a radio presenter this morning gleefully announce that this is the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers. On a more positive note, it is also one of the busiest periods for people taking up health club memberships – whether people use them is another matter, but buying into ‘hope’ and a dream is great, just like buying a lottery ticket with a 24 million to one odds of winning.

Today, we reopen the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Centre and our programmes kick back in after a couple of weeks of rest. Of course, violent conflict doesn’t recognise the New Year – it carries on, and the hideous headlines today are a salutary reminder that some people are capable of incalculable evil and have little peace or goodwill or even happiness in their lives. Their lack of a moral compass, or even basic humanity, is a challenge to society and so we who ‘wage peace not war’ have to work doubly hard to ensure that we build peace every day and resolve conflict and work to stop such violence.

This year will be one of immense challenge, and in setting the Foundation for Peace’s priorities in 2016, we will be looking closely at developments in the external world. So, what are we likely to face…

Well, the world of politics will continue to throw up challenges. Last year the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 came onto the statute books and a further Extremism Bill is expected in 2016. The Government will continue its increased emphasis on security and defence.

We will see more activity from Da’esh. What has happened today is just one example. In response, Islamaphobia and the pernicious activities of the Far Right will also increase. The first headline of the New Year was about refugees arriving in Greece and immigration will play a huge part in our national psyche and, in particular, in the tabloid press. The ‘fear of the other’ and perceived loss of territory and ‘taking things away’ will dominate.

International conflict is not going to stop in the New Year – almost daily incidents of significant violence including Civil War and international action (Syria, Iraq, Libya) plus actions by groups (AQ, Taliban, Da’esh) will continue, and we will live our daily lives in expectation of a ‘homeland’ incident – our security and Police will be trying to stop this at all times and we can expect multiple investigations and arrests to try to prevent such violence.

There are also positive moves, as in terms of Northern Ireland and peace between our islands, the Stormont House Agreement moves into legislation via a policy paper to a bill. The year will also see the commemoration in Ireland of the 1916 easter rising and there will be other anniversaries that we will be there to support people at – Manchester 20th anniversary of the IRA bombing, the first anniversary following the terrible events in Tunisia and the eleventh anniversary of the London bombings, to name a few.

At the same time, we will need to guard against any increase in sectarianism and nationalism. Certainly our future relationship with the European Union and our neighbours will be determined, with the remote possibility of BREXIT. And, of course, political movements in the UK will continue to evolve as Labour comes to terms with its new leader, the Conservatives exercise their absolute majority, the Liberal Democrats fight for their existence and the other ‘rainbow’ parties find their way forward.

The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace will continue its work as a UK centre of excellence around a core offering in peace building and conflict resolution, consolidating our programme ‘for peace’ in communities, schools (education) and families in the PREVENTION and RESPONSE to violent conflict. We will also deliver our RESPONSE services through the Survivors Assistance Network and continue our British and Irish reconciliation work. We will develop a ‘peacebuilding’ network of people who want to make a difference through a new ‘Bridging Communities’ project.

Our other projects such as My Former Life (MFL), THINK, Women for Peace (W4P), Holding Difficult Conversations (HDC) and Peace Making will continue.

At European level, we will continue to chair a subgroup and participate in projects as part of the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Centre of Excellence.

And, of course, work at the Peace Centre in Warrington will continue 24 hours a day throughout the year.

So, the New Year and 2016 is upon us and its time to get back to whatever ‘normality’ is. But if you are looking for a new start, want to do something different, and make a change in the world – then maybe it is time to think about how you could do your own bit for peace building and conflict resolution. To meet the challenges set out in this blog and to deliver the work, we need your help and support – to find out how, please contact us and let us try and make 2016 a peaceful year.