Thursday, 11 August 2011

Inspirational Woman

Paying tribute to peace activist Dekha Ibrahim Abdi who has tragically died in a car accident. I first met Dekha in 1994 when we were both students on the Responding to Conflict Programme at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. As part of the course we did a role play on her conflict situation in the Wajir province of Kenya, and it fell to my lot to play the part of a Kenyan Elder. With her typical bubbling-under sense of humour Dekha gave me very positive feedback on my performance saying I had captured perfectly the required intransigence! For the rest of the course whenever we were debating something she would gently wag her finger at me and say "very successful Elder". Dekha's life is an exemplar of how one person can make a real difference in the world. Alongside the sadness and warm memories this week I have been truly inspired to think harder about the difference I can make, particularly in response to the violence we have seen on our streets this week. How we respond to this is a measure of what we are but also about what we could become. It's great to see the clean-up initiative in London but not so good to see people wearing tee-shirts that say "Looters are scum". Of course we should condemn the opportunistic criminal behaviour and the tragic loss of three young lives in Birmingham. But my own response is also that I need to understand the ways in which I may be sowing the seeds of violence and conflict in my own thoughts, words and deeds and to reflect on what I need to do to change. Dekha's obituary says: "(Her) method was first to listen carefully, without interrupting, to all involved in the conflict. She knew that humiliation is one of the main drivers of violence, and that the best antidote to humiliation is respect. When everyone felt their point of view was understood, she would work to restore relations between victim and offender." You can view a video clip of Dekha's work by clicking on the link at the top of this post. Her Guardian obituary is here:

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