Medillín Mayor: City can learn from Barr
THE Mayor of Medillín - a city known in the 1980s and 1990s as the most violent in the world - has invited Londonderry loyalist and veteran peace and reconciliation worker Glen Barr to a major peace conference in May because he believes his city “can learn a lot from the Irish experience.”
Last month the Sentinel reported how the Waterside man has been invited to speak in Medillín, Colombia, on the basis of his groundbreaking peace and reconciliation work across Europe.
The Sentinel can now confirm that Mairéad Corrigan Maguire, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 with Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown and who was a co-founder of the Peace People, has also been asked to attend.
Medillín’s International Cooperation Agency (ACI) has confirmed to the Sentinel that former Polish President Lech Walesa - winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 - and a co-founder of the Solidarnosc movement, which helped precipitate the fall of the Eastern bloc, has also been invtied.
And the Sentinel has also learned that Jeremy Gilley, the creator of Peace One Day (World Peace Day), which hosted a major peace concert in Londonderry last year, is also expected to attend.
ACI contacted the Sentinel on behalf of the Mayor of Medillín, Aníbal Gaviria, to explain why some local figures - including Mr Barr - have been invited to the event.
A spokeswoman explained: “Medellín has been a city deeply marked by violent events during the 80s and 90s but we have gone through a transformation process where our citizens have significantly increased their quality of life.
“One of our main challenges today, is to evolve as an inclusive and peaceful society. This is why, we are organising in May, a first Summit of Non-Violence.”
She added: “As you can see, during May, we will have several events with different actors in society and we want to dedicate a space for an academic insight.
“We have contacted some Irish leaders, because we believe we can learn a lot from the Irish experience.
“Currently, Colombia is carrying on a peace talks process with armed groups and we hope this would lead us to a better future. “Meanwhile, we know that we have to learn and discuss about nonviolent ways to solve differences. In this context, we are keen to learn from other experiences to find our own way.”
During a series of events in May a “Reconciliation/peace (is) possible” seminar will look at two successful transitions from armed conflict to civilian stability.
The organisers believe two successful models are those centring on the IRA here and M19 in Colombia.
The event will - the organisers hope - feature a contribution from Mairéad Corrigan Maguire as well as from Antonio Navarro Wolf, a Colombian politician who was part of the April 19th Movement (M-19) guerrilla group, which were demobilised and then formed a political party which he led.
Another event planned will feature testimony from Pastora Mira, who was born in San Carlos, a rural village in Antioquia, whose father, first husband and two children were all killed by paramilitaries.
Last month the Sentinel revealed how Mr Barr had been invited to attend the peace summit.
He told the paper: “I’ve been invited to come over under the auspices of the city municipality to speak at the event. It’s on the back of work that has been done by the International Peace School in Cyprus and the Balkans.”
The International School for Peace Studies in Belgium which Mr Barr established in the 1990s is famed as leading centre in the field of conflict transformation.
“As I understand it former world leaders suchs as Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev have been invited,” he said.
Mr Barr said he needs to consider whether he can attend the event or not, as knee surgery he underwent a few years ago, may make it difficult for him to travel. He may consider the possibilty of sending a colleage from the Peace School in his stead.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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