Shakespeare and the Bible are probably the two most quoted canons of western literature, and for many good reasons; they both offer guidance for those navigating what it means to be human.
Of all Shakespeare’s plays the most quoted is Hamlet, and of all his characters it is perhaps in Hamlet that we feel most sympathy. We feel ourselves his struggles in working out the fundamental matters associated with this “mortal coil.” We all know that:
“To be, or not, to be. That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep, no more.”
Obligated by tradition, Hamlet’s ‘wrong’, his father’s murder, demands revenge; it is a question of honour. Yet Shakespeare’s hero is perplexed by two questions. He doesn’t know if he can believe in his father’s ghost. Is what he says true? Not only this, Hamlet looks further ahead, and considers the consequences of revenging by murder… “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause. And thus, the native hue of resolution is sicklied over with the pale cast of thought.”
Our International Peacemakers’ Fund awards financial means for people faced with the kinds of issues as Hamlet. Their lives have been, are, or will be threatened. Many voices call out for revenge, to violently ‘right’ the ‘wrongs’ committed against them. Our peacemakers are Hamlets for this time, pausing to consider future consequences and silence the calls for retribution.
Yet the heros and heroines of our time, living in these conflict areas, go further than Hamlet. He sees things from an individual perspective and is resolved against revenge by realising that we are all to die, it’s just a case of when, not if, so to murder isn’t necessary. Our peacemakers are motivated by more than this. They have a vision of their community, their society, living in peace and harmony. The vision they have is one for the collective, for the many, to live a better life now and in future.
This year we made awards to two projects situated in communities riddled with conflict for decades. Fragments Theatre is based in Jenin of the Palestinian Territories. They are working with young people often recruited for violence in the ongoing Isreali-Palestinian conflicts. Jenin, and much of the West Bank generally, suffers from a lack of outlets for young adults. With high unemployment and almost no channels for their energy these youngsters have literally nothing to do.
Fragments will be travelling to refugee camps, villages, towns and cities throughout the West Bank and offering workshops on stand-up comedy. Creating a safe space in which young people can build their confidence, creatively release their frustrations, and use comedy to diffuse and ultimately transform the anger they experience. Fragments uses the stand-up format to guide youngsters toward independent, peaceful and successful lives, to transform despair into hope.
Burundi, a relatively small country in Central Africa, is also no stranger to conflict. In the past 50 years it has endured two genocides and almost uninterrupted civil conflict, often between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. From 2006 to 2015 relative stability was created but recent elections have been boycotted by the opposition in protest against President Pierre Nkurunzia. Alarmingly, Burundi officially withdrew from the International Criminal Court following accusations by the UN of extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual violence (human rights violations). Burundi’s recent period of relative peace is looking particularly fragile.
We received an application from Coventry Cathedral’s Reconciliation Ministry that spoke to this instability in a way that interested us. Due to fraudulent activity by a former Bishop many members of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, were finding it difficult to serve the congregation and beyond. Their burden was not simply financial; trust had broken down and the many pains of being betrayed were keenly felt. They asked for the Ministry’s assistance. The exciting thing about this from our perspective is that the Ministry’s reconciliation intervention is Christian-based, rooted in Christ’s life and message. Along with creating harmony within the pastoral and staff community their task is to train the pastors and staff such that they can be active and engaged as reconcilers within the wider community.
We love supporting such peacemakers’ vision of harmony but we need your help to continue doing so. We rely on individuals donating specifically to this Fund. Most of our current donors give regularly, allowing us to plan each year to maintain commitments to peacemakers old and new. We are asking you to become one our partners in this by giving money, large or small, regularly or as a one-off payment. Why not do something right now that fulfils Jesus’, not Hamlet’s, message of peace and love on earth?