Wednesday, December 25, 2013

All I want for Christmas

Thought at this festive time I'd post an extract from my son's letter to and world peace...what more could a person ask.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela legacy for Northern Ireland

Days after Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990 I went to a massive welcome home rally at Soccer City – the stadium on the outskirts of Soweto that would host the World Cup final two decades later.

The day was one of unparalleled elation. I remember people walking for miles to see Mandela. As I neared the stadium in my old Toyota, people started to jump on the car exhausted from walking. I arrived at the stadium with 6 people in the car, and 10 people on it and with a dented roof. But I didn’t care. It felt as if the world had shifted on its axis that day.

In many ways, everything has changed in South Africa. Racial legal apartheid is a historic relic. South Africa now has one of the most progressive constitutions and human rights frameworks in the world. Political power has changed irreversibly.

Since the end of apartheid the ANC government has built over 2 million houses, over 90% of people now have running water and 85% an electricity connection. This is remarkable given the low base the apartheid government left behind. Income in black households increased an average 169 percent over 10 years and over 35% of the middle class is now black.

But despite this progress, economically South Africa remains one of the most unequal places on earth. Unemployment is as high as 40%, and millions of black South Africans continue to live in poverty.

With these challenges, it is easy to say Nelson Mandela’s dream of a rainbow nation of equals has failed. But the challenges facing Mandela in 1994 should not be under-estimated. His government was confronted with the legacy of centuries of racism. Communities were tearing themselves apart because of historic mistrust and state sanctioned violence. During the negotiations of 1990 to 1994, 15,000 people lost their lives in political violence.

In this context, reconciliation in Mandela’s terms was the difficult path to take. It meant quelling angry and fearful groups on all sides. Reconciliation was hardly an easy alternative to war – it was a strategy to change the course of history.

Photograph: Philip Littleton/AFP/Getty Images
Many people will remember when Mandela donned the Springbok Rugby jersey. Often painted as a simple gesture to white South Africa about their inclusion in the new South Africa, it was in reality Mandela recasting a symbol long associated with Afrikaner nationalism. Yes, he welcomed whites into the new nation but it resulted in the end of the old South Africa flag, the demise of white political power and the creation of a common flag for all. The new South Africa was clearly about give and take.

Mandela’s approach was to adopt peacemaking and reconciliation as ends in themselves, rather than tools to be used to further one’s political aims. Through this, Mandela created a vision to aspire to: that all South Africans must work towards this dream no matter the odds – a sentiment now deeply entrenched.

In this sense, Mandela’s legacy is of great relevance to Northern Ireland. He has taught us that reconciliation is not a tolerance or basic acceptance of each other.Rather, it is a real, hard fought and never-ending quest to improve society for all. It is a call to action, a quest to continually challenge ourselves to change our beliefs and practices.

As Mandela himself said: “You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility”.

Mandela’s vision invites us all to rise above the histories that shape us so we can transform the future.

This article was published on Slugger O'Toole on 6 December 2013. Copyright Brandon Hamber. 

Also available on

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Platform for Change debating Haass Talks

On 25 November 2013, Platform for Change hosted a public talk in Belfast focused on the current Haass Talks. Speakers included Lesley Carroll; Dominic Bryan; Peter Osborne; Brandon Hamber; Maureen Hetherington and Chaired by Trevor Ringland. Below is a Storify record of the event, including a summary article, the audio and a selected Tweet record.
  1. Summary of the Event published on Slugger O'Toole
  2. Audio of the Event captured by @alaninbelfast

  3. Tweet Record (Selected)
  4.  #haassp4c In his introduction @trevor4change quoting from Blackadder "It was too much effort not to have a war"
  5. #haassp4c The panel at tonight's @platform4change discussion panel around the Haass talks/agenda
  6.  @ianjamesparsley: Rev Lesley Carroll (Presbyterian) speaking now at #haassp4c” I'm an atheist, but I do like @Fmpcrevlesley
  7.  Hamber suggests asking not if light at end of tunnel, but why there is no tunnel. #haassp4c
  8.  Young men put flags up; people regard them as paramilitary markers. So concludes @Domsball #haassp4c
  9.  #haassp4c Last 2 speakers - @Domsball & @PeterOsborne_ - have both questioned culture being under attack when number of parades is on the up
  10. #haassp4c a centralised mechanism to deal with the Past seems to be coming.
  11.  Hamber suggests reasons: scared of having own perceptions challenged; all fear truth (various reasons). #haassp4c
  12.  Maureen Hetherington, community relations practitioner from Derry, up next. Notes 1998 Agreement's wheels coming off.#haassp4c
  13.  Calling in Haass at all demonstrates political process failed due to institutionalisation of sectarianism, claims Hetherington.#haassp4c
  14.  #haassp4c Last 2 speakers - @Domsball & @PeterOsborne_ - have both questioned culture being under attack when number of parades is on the up
  15. #haassp4c Maureen Hetherington responds to flag protest Q & refers to a spirit of generosity in Derry this year as party of Culture year
  16.  Now question on getting more women involved in the Haass consultations #haassp4c
  17.  #haassp4c Speaker notes the need to challenge patriarchy to progress to a truly shared society. So true.
  18.  Latest: A spirited discussion about issues on @RichardHaassagenda at @platform4change's #haassp4c