JOHN HUME, PEACE PIONEER. I first started visiting Northern Ireland, from Australia, in the 1980s, working with young people, charities and churches. By 1994, I was privileged to work with charities on both sides of the sectarian divide, who were desperate to find a lasting peace.
The legacy of the recently deceased John Hume KCSG should not be ignored, particularly by today's political leaders. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Martin Luther King Award & the Ghandi Peace Prize for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process.
A leader of the SDLP and member of Parliament for Londonderry/Derry, he worked behind the scenes to broker peace, before it was popular to do so. He also pushed for equality of opportunity for all and argued against blind nationalism on both sides. Even onetime foes, like Rev Ian Paisley, came to appreciate his work.
Twenty-six years ago, I told high school students in Northern Ireland that a sustainable peace wouldn't arrive unless local people - and especially the young - became committed to it. This was obvious, but not many in local politics had voiced their support for a peace agreement at that time.
That thousands of people on both sides were eventually offered a peace accord they could respect was largely due to the work of brave people like John Hume, peace pioneer, activist and community leader.