Long-time peace activist Jon McCourt of Northern Ireland will speak at Hope on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 11 a.m. in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, discussing struggle, loss, division, polarization, hope and healing, and sharing personal moments and reflections.
The campus community is invited. Admission is free.
McCourt has been a community peace activist and a member of the Peace and Reconciliation Group in the City of Derry, Northern Ireland for more than 30 years. He has also travelled to and worked with those involved in conflicts in other areas of the world, including Bosnia, the Middle East, Ukraine and conflict torn countries in Africa, and he is en route to Bogota, Colombia, to assist in the FARC Peace Agreement.
He has met with Hope students in Belfast on the Celtic May Term for the past four years. While on campus, he will also be meeting with classes.
McCourt went on the first Civil Rights March in Derry as a young man in October 1968. He was actively engaged in almost every aspect of the conflict that arose as the result of that march. He took part in the Battle of the Bogside, when the police laid siege to the Catholic/Nationalist of Derry for three days. He saw the first soldiers arrive on the streets of Derry in August 1969, and witnessed the murder of friends and neighbors on Bloody Sunday when 14 people died at the hands of the British Army’s 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.
From 1978 he has worked at building bridges between the two major communities in Derry, encouraging and engaging in cross community activities that have assisted in rebuilding contact, trust and cooperation across the city. Through the 1980s he continued with this work while at the same time working with representatives of the major protagonists to the conflict, to limit the impact of the conflict on local communities. He played a major part in the development of the Community Awareness Training Programme used by the British Army which contributed to the reduction of soldiers on the streets, through a process of de-escalation and disengagement locally. With others he founded and established the first Victim Support Service in Northern Ireland in 1986.
His story was one of several, in which he plays his own part,that became the first “Theatre of Witness” ground-breaking production “We Carried your Secrets” (theatreofwitness.org). For more than 20 years he has facilitated the study visits from The U.S and elsewhere, giving students an insight into the impact of the Northern Ireland Conflict.
The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication is located at 257 Columbia Ave., at the corner of Columbia Avenue and 10th Street.