Mr Eamon Rafter

MAIN Photo / Foto Principal
NameMr Eamon Rafter
Affiliated Organizations

Member:  World Beyond War Ireland

Member: Swords to Ploughshares (Ireland)


Country of origin / País de origenIreland
Country where you do your workIreland
Please tell us about your work in peace education. / Cuéntenos sobre su trabajo en la educación para la paz.

I have worked as an educator for more than 20 years with diverse groups in peace, justice and reconciliation projects and with marginalised communities. Much of this work was in the development, delivery and evaluation of learning programmes in Ireland north and south and internationally and were both in the formal system (schools & universities) and non-formally with NGOs, youth organisations, peace groups and communities. A lot of this work in Northern Ireland  brought communities affected by conflict together to work towards better relations. There was also a lot of work on the legacy of conflict to build reconciliation after the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement of 1998. The persistence of sectarianism and  the presence of walls dividing communities has been a continuing challenge. I have also worked on many international projects in Europe, Afghanistan, Palestine and South Africa and hosted visiting groups in Ireland

I have some expertise in the theory and practice of dialogue and bringing facilitation skills to mediation approaches with communities affected by conflict, bringing groups of young people together across borders and divisions to explore common ground and understand difference. Nowadays I'm also involved as an activist educator to protect Ireland's neutrality, challenge the arms trade and support human and ecological security as an element of community regeneration and empowerment. It is important for me to bring anti-militarist approaches to peace education and connect peace at local levels to global issues.

The following have been key areas of my peace education work:

Community dialogue on legacy of conflict in Ireland/workshops on dialogue process
History of Irish conflict and Peace Process
Public education on European militarisation and consequences for Ireland
Community regeneration for soil, soul & society

Video description / descripción del video

StoP Ireland (Swords to Ploughshares) online event 'EU Militarisation Irish Neutrality & the War in Ukraine: the Case for Peace'  22 June 2022.

Start in the field & motivations / Inicio en este campo y motivaciones

I have worked for more than 20 years as a peace educator/ facilitator. I first got involved in this work in relation to the impact on communities of political violence in Northern Ireland. How to break the cycles of violence that are so persistent? How dialogue offers a way in to face up to some of these challenges and find ways to move forward. I have more recently felt the need to develop the public conversation on global militaristation and how it threatens Irish neutrality. I am strongly motivated by the urgency of learning the lessons from our conflict experience and how to work creatively with non-violence to transform cultures of violence. Nowadays I am involved more as an activist educator to build critical awareness of Irelands potential to be an active player in global peace initiatives and work with communities organisations. Social peace is not the only area we need to focus on. Given the challenges we are facing we need to create a unified way to work on ecological and personal peace and build community in all areas.

Regarding the motivation that has inspired the work I have been involved in, throughout my studies and practice of peace education I have worked collaboratively with many individuals, organisations and institutions to develop both motivation and vision and for me this is work of solidarity and coalition. I am motivated by a belief that education in the Freirean sense has a capacity to be transformative in the lives of people and communities who engage in the process. I see the potential for education to be libertory and as the practice of freedom, if it can break through the constraints of the neo-liberal bind which reduces education to a passive and controlling mechanism to feed the job market and induce conformity and obedience. So there are huge challenges to be faced and I have continued to face up to them, not always successfully. My work in supporting education globally defines it as a right and not a privilege and that it is a means for everyone to critically engage with their reality through the support and guidance of teachers and facilitators of learning. It supports negative and positive peace and empowers critically engaged subjects to understand and activate their human rights. It must be equitable, inclusive and of a high quality so that no one is left behind. It is never a neutral process so the goal is to support learning for change and the development of our own communities. It must be relevant to the lives and realities of the learners and engage the imagination and allow everyone to bring their realities to the learning process. I feel I have a responsibility to share what I have learnt but not to direct how others live their lives. Compassion for the struggles of others motivates me in this work and I feel we need to be aware of privilege and be with people not above them.

Significant Career Moments & Success Stories / Momentos significativos de tu carrera y historias de éxito

Though I don't consider myself an academic I was delighted that my Masters thesis on an 'Integrated Approach to Peace Education' won the official prize in Trinity College in 2008. I have built on this work to deliver training in formal and non formal contexts.  I was accepted on the 2012  U.S State Dept. & Boston College 'Alternatives to Political Violence Programme'  which comprised practitioners from Ireland north and south and was a great learning experience.  Editing and co-ordinating the publication of ‘Deepening Reconciliation: Reflections on Glencree Peacebuilding’ in 2014 and  the chapter ‘The Transformative Power of Dialogue‘  in ‘Connecting Lives: Interbelief Dialogue in Contemporary Ireland’, 2019 were also noteworthy moments. Joining IIPE in Cyprus in 2019 and Mexico in 2022 were other highlights.

Some other examples include:
Young Peacebuilders Programme (Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland)
Sharing learning from Irish context in Palestine, Afghanistan, South Africa, U.S.A. Europe and bringing groups from many countries to Ireland.
Journeys Out Programme - Community based approaches to memory & reconciliation in Ireland & South Africa
Working with young Muslims in the GAME project. - Brining together young Muslims from 12 different countries to question stereotypes and create peace actions
Editor and contributor to 'Deepening Reconciliation'


What keeps you going? / ¿Qué te hace seguir?

The support of colleagues and the organisations I have worked with have been essential in keeping this work going and dealing with the emotional challenges that are often present.  The work does not always turn out as expected and this can be good and bad. We look for small gains and build hope through actions so that even if there is little movement people still engage and you can carry on. When you work with people affected by conflict you cannot help but being humbled and inspired. I think it is important to be able to monitor how you are doing and assess your own mechanisms of self-care to be useful and to break away occasionally. We are living in difficult times and education for peace, justice and sustainability has never been more important. This belief keeps me active in this area.

Some other things that keep me going:
A belief in power of people working together with non-violent techniques
The intimate connection of all people on the earth and our deep connection with the earth
The urgency of creating alternatives when we cannot influence institutional change
Situations marked by cycles of violence can be transformed if we are willing to work together
Dialogue can be transformative and change hearts and mind and this is a good place to start
Community with colleagues, friends and place

Additional info / Información adicional

It is essential that work in peace education is underpinned by real vision and values that inspire and guide the work. I frequently find it difficult in peace activism when listening to people relentlessly recount the things they are against, but rarely talk about the future they would like to be part of. Peace education as I see it is values based and rooted in human rights and I agree with Margo  Okaza wa-Rey that 'we need to get folks, including ourselves, to envisage possibilities and visions of a just and peaceful world'. Our vision is often the least discussed part of the work. So a vision for the work is essential and for me.   It's about educating for a transformation of structures and culture and the capacity to deal with conflict non-violently to build a world based on peace, justice and human rights. The vision is rooted in values, created through praxis and works through community engagement,  solidarity , respecting human rights and the natural world to build peace. Education has to play a key role in this praxis and the vision of an autonomist, ecological,  pluriversal world in counterpoint to the global militarist/capitalist project.

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