A year after receiving an honorary degree and delivering the commencement address at the University of Ulster-Magee Campus in Derry, Northern Ireland, Tom O’Neill returned to campus with his wife Shelly for the Formal Launch of the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace. Dedicated in honor of their efforts to foster peace and advance the reconciliation process during and after the Troubles, the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace seeks to use the lessons learned from peacebuilding in Northern Ireland to prepare future peacemakers of the world.
Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of the world-renowned non-violent Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, served as the keynote speaker of the inaugural events, which revolved around the commencement ceremonies for the INCORE Class of 2018. During his time on campus, Dr. Gandhi met with the Clinton Summer School INCORE participants and delivered a lecture around peace and nonviolence. The Smyth Memorial Lecture, “Building a Culture of Peace: Lessons from My Grandfather” emphasized the importance of learning in order for future peacemakers to create a culture of peace. Mahatma Gandhi led India’s non-violent independence from Britain and Dr. Arun Gandhi recalled learning from his grandfather that justice did not mean revenge but rather transformation through love.
Professor Brandon Hamber is the Director of INCORE and was appointed as the professor for the Chair in Peace to help future peacemakers in cultivating a more peaceful world. He was congratulated by Emmy-nominated actress and producer, Dr. Roma Downey, through a video message where she expressed her warm congratulations and her confidence in his valuable contributions while holding the Chair in Peace. Professor Brandon Hamber meditated upon the current violence conflicts around the world and recognized the great work that will be done to empower a generation of peacemakers.
While these events remind us that there is much that remains to be done to stimulate peace around the globe, the formal launch of the Chair in Peace was an opportunity to celebrate people like Mahatma Gandhi, John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill. Tom adds:
“The origin in modern history of peace, brought about in a non-violent way, for the essence of equity and justice to be realised, was really at the hands of the great Mahatma. It was the others that followed him, because they had been reminded of what peace can do.”
Looking forward, we can only hope the next generation continues to follow and be reminded of these great leaders and what peace can do.