Average read time: 3 minutes

Time to breathe

Lisa Cumming shares reflections from a peacebuilding gathering at Corrymeela.

We came together as practitioners who approach peacebuilding in different ways. All photos: Peacebuilding Network
We came together as practitioners who approach peacebuilding in different ways. All photos: Peacebuilding Network

"Corrymeela begins when you leave", say the words carved into wood above the door. Corrymeela's residential centre near Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, was the setting for the first in-person gathering of the Peacebuilding Network (UK and Ireland). Corrymeela has been facilitating work on peace and reconciliation since 1965 before, during, and after the Troubles. As a membership organisation, it offers much more than a residential space but that's what we needed as we gathered together in warm May sunshine.

Quakers have been involved with the Peacebuilding Network since the first conversations were instigated by the Centre for Good Relations in December 2020 pondering the value of connecting across UK borders, against the backdrop of Covid and Brexit.

We came together as practitioners who approach peacebuilding in different ways through work such as community dialogue, civic mediation, 'justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion' work, interfaith relations, conflict analysis and intervention, cohesion work and more. Currently, members are working in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the north and south of England. Some of us have met before, others were meeting for the first time outside of our computer screens.

The aim of the Peacebuilding Network is to provide a "space for people involved in or interested in peacebuilding to reflect and learn together and support each other." The aim of our residential was:

  • To deepen our connection as a network through sharing context and practice reflections.
  • To feel more restored to carry on peacebuilding work in challenging times.

We heard about the history of the place and how "Corrymeela began with the idea of 'community' – with individuals, inspired by their Christian faith, agreeing to be in respectful relationship with each other as an expression of how people can live well together." We were invited, as a network that includes Christians, Muslims, and humanists, to worship together with the Corrymeela community in the Croí, which is Irish for heart. It was profoundly moving to hear Corrymeela's prayer for courage, that includes the words:

We bear witness to our faith,
knowing that we are called
to live lives of courage, love and reconciliation
in the ordinary and extraordinary moments
of each day.

We bear witness, too, to our failures
and our complicity in the fractures of our world.

Corrymeela creates a loving community through doing community, so we appreciated being welcomed to dry the dishes after each meal and getting to know some of the staff and volunteers as we ate together.

The magic of Corrymeela helped us gather, connect and share so many rich conversations, from thoughts about the current context to shared reflections about practice. We made time to explore some of the recurring dilemmas that have been present in our conversations. Dilemmas such as the continuum of peacebuilding and activism, and the choices we make in a world of injustice and challenge. Time was also given to share thoughts and memories of Brendan McAllister, Director of Mediation Northern Ireland (1992-2008) and friend, mentor, and trainer to many in the network, who died in December 2022.

As we came to the end of our three days together, we reflected that whilst it has been and will remain incredibly valuable to meet on Zoom, it was really wonderful to meet in person. Conflict work is not easy and it was heartening to hear people share a sense of gratitude that Quakers in Britain are walking alongside peace practitioners through the Peacebuilding in Britain programme.

We left feeling connected and restored, with questions to keep thinking about and holding in our hearts the wisdom that Corrymeela begins when you leave.

Corrymeela begins when you leave. Photo: Peacebuilding Network

Find out more about Quaker work