RS Study Day: Religion, peace and conflict

Fifth Year students from St George's College took part in a very special and emotional study day on Thursday 18 October. 

The aim of the study day was to complement the students' learning about peace, conflict and reconciliation for their Religious Studies GCSE. Several notable speakers came to the College to give their personal accounts of reconciliation and forgiveness to provide Fifth Year with valuable insights into the subject as well as providing extremely engaging discussions.

Fifth Year student, Sebastian Bramley, has written about the study day and the effect it had on himself and the students.

"Firstly, we listened to the parents of Jimmy Mizen, a sixteen-year-old boy who was brutally murdered in a bakery in South East London ten years ago. They gave a moving description of the events of that day and how they came to forgive the murderer. It was truly fascinating to hear a first-hand account of how it is possible to forgive in such difficult circumstances. The most interesting revelation for me was how they felt that they had no option but to forgive; anger would have consumed them and infiltrated every aspect of their lives had they not forgiven the murderer, they would never have been able to move beyond that event and enjoy their lives.

We then dispersed into our tutor groups in order to discuss peace-making on a larger scale. We considered case studies of charities which work for peace, such as CAFOD, and how their efforts help to resolve national conflicts such as the civil war in the Central African Republic. During this time the speakers also went around some of the groups and we had the opportunity to ask them questions and debate the issues they had raised.

We returned to the chapel to hear the next speaker: Jo Berry. Jo Berry is the daughter of a conservative MP who was killed in the Brighton bombings. She described her extraordinary journey from anger to reconciliation. Initially, she wanted to meet Patrick Magee, the man responsible for the bombing, out of curiosity alone. What I found truly enlightening was how by entering into a dialogue with Patrick from a purely humanitarian perspective, Jo was able to disarm Patrick of his political rhetoric and give him a sense of genuine remorse for what he had done. This complements the Christian understanding of human beings (that we have discussed in RS) as naturally compassionate creatures who only truly commit violence when they do not fully comprehend the humanity of their victim due to social or political conditioning.

Again, we dispersed into groups. The speakers came around the groups so that we could ask questions and debate the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation. This was an excellent experience because we were able to speak with them on a more personal level.

Unfortunately, Ollie Barker, an Old Georgian whose brother was killed in the Omagh bombing, who would have been the final speaker was unable to attend. Instead we returned to the chapel for a debate on the motion ‘peace should be the first priority for Christians’. Each form nominated their representative who had to argue their side of the debate for several minutes in front of the year. I found this part of the day very enjoyable. The representatives spoke eloquently for their side of the debate. The proposition was particularly good at referencing Christian theology. Nevertheless, the majority of the year voted for the opposition and their interesting argument that education must come first because only with education may Christians be peaceful.

For the final part of the day, all of the speakers answered questions which the students had prepared. Overall, the day was not only an important and extremely useful event for the RS GCSE, it was a truly insightful introduction to some of the most difficult issues to overcome in society and in human life generally."

5 November 2018

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