36 years ago, I woke up to a day which would change my life forever, a bomb exploded in Brighton which killed my Dad and 4 others. Today I reflect on the past 36 years and all that has happened since. It has not been easy, many challenges and dark moments when I wondered how I was going to get through them, as well as many synchronicities, insights, and connections. I have focused ever since on bringing meaning to the trauma, understanding the reasons someone would plant a bomb, and creating more love and compassion in the world. The journey has taken me to amazing places and given me so many opportunities to make a difference.
The last 20 years have been full of learnings and insight as I have been in dialogue with Patrick Magee, (the ex IRA combatant who planted the bomb), and shared platforms with him around the world, over three hundred times. I know the only person I can change is myself and I have become skilled in having a difficult conversation and be able to listen with someone I disagree with, without making them wrong and me right, Though we cannot force someone to change (without using some form of violence) , there is much we can do to create the conditions so the ‘other’ can feel safe to open up, can begin to listen, can be more understanding of the impact of their behaviour, can be more empathetic. I only imagined I would meet Patrick once, and nobody need ever know.
That first meeting had a transformational moment when Patrick was disarmed by my empathy and began his own journey of transformation. He would later say if I had gone in the meeting blaming him and pointed my finger he would have stayed in a safe place of righteousness. Instead I was curious and wanted to know who he was behind the label of ‘terrorist’ and see him as a human being. Of course, I had done much preparation before so I could be in the same room as him and not be revengeful.
Now I work with people and groups around the world, demonstrating what is possible. After attending my talks and workshops, people are more confident in having their own difficult conversations, are empowered to be positive change makers, and are more skilled in transforming their conflict. The work is humbling, and it is a deep privilege to listen to people’s stories and support them as they make the changes they choose to make.
We cannot change the past and we have the power in creating a different future. Today I recommit to be supportive to all struggling, to see the humanity in everyone, express more love and compassion, and help create a more peaceful world.
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