Great to hear John Caulker speak about “Sustainable Peace in Post Ebola Sierra Leone” at a recent seminar hosted by the Chair within INCORE. It was fascinating to hear how the community networks that the project John Caulker established called Fambul Tok (“Family Talk”) were used to help building community resilience in the face of the virus. Fambul Tok was set up to deal with the legacy of war and focused on sharing stories often from perpetrators of violence, but the community solidarity they built through that reconciliation project became instrumental in combating misperceptions and changing behaviour around Ebola. They are now looking to roll out a wider process of networks since the end of the epidemic. Caulker was also critical of the international community who treated the epidemic as solely a medical problem failing to see that engagement of communities was needed to stop it and that communities also had to deal with the problems Ebola caused (inter-community tensions and stigma). In post-Ebola Sierra Leone problems still prevail in that funding support is for “Ebola victims” which singles people out rather than support whole communities. Caulker believes any interventions should be community-centric.
The seminar was recorded and the recording will be posted on the Hume O’Neill Peace Blog soon.
On on Friday night, 23 September 2016, the Chair attended the 2016 Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award in Buncrana, Co Donegal. The award (the 5th) was given to Chris Matthews. Matthews is an American political commentator and most well known for his talk show “Hardball” on MSNBC. He also served as Press Secretary to Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill.
At the event Matthews took to the opportunity to reflect on the current political situation in the US. He felt what was going on right now was “crazy”. There is a tension between Trump’s “nasty politics” and Trump selling people an unrealisable dream of “manufacturing in 1950s”, compared to Hilary Clinton as an experienced politician but being painted as “the establishment”. He also noted that when he worked with Tip O’Neill he focused on letting people “know who you are” and in O’Neill’s case that meant people could support him as his values were made more prominent. Matthews also reflected on O’Neill’s political style noting that he understood that debate was a way of moving politics forward, and that today people have forgotten this thinking debate is politics. When the debate is done compromises have to be made and the work done Matthews noted. He ended by saying that his “crystal ball is a bit foggy” about who would win the US election, but if African Americans, Hispanics and women vote, Trump will lose. But we will have to wait and see.
On the Saturday morning following the event Professor Paul Arthur, Honorary Professor at INCORE, gave the Tip O’Neill Diaspora lecture which he titled “Imagination and Politics”. He particularly focused on the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. Although from opposite political sides they had the foresight to realise they needed to work together, and they symbolised the importance of the democratic tradition.
The John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace will be hosting the seminar “Go Local: The role of communities in ensuring sustainable peace in post Ebola Sierra Leone” by John Caulker. John Caulker founded and has led the implementation of the Fambul Tok program since its inception in 2007, initially through his position as the founding Executive Director of Sierra Leonean human rights NGO, Forum of Conscience.
Date: 26 September 2016. Time: 1pm to 2:30pm. Venue: Ulster University, Belfast Campus, York Street, BA-03-019.