By Matt Moran
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention, at Maynooth University, Ireland and the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a renewed strategic partnership. The signing took place last week in Maynooth between Peter Cassells, Executive Director of the Kennedy Institute and Rev. Dr. Patrick Devine, Executive Chairman of Shalom.
The purpose of the MoU is to capture the sense of common purpose between both organisations. It provides a platform for mutual understanding, development of common interests and maintenance of relationships and networks to the benefit of both organisations. It will cover areas of mutual interest to ensure regular briefings, reciprocal exchange of learning and knowledge, development of ‘fit for purpose’ pedagogies, and education of academic staff and students in the wider conditions which make the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Having exchanged initial briefing documents on the content of their education and training programmes, both organisations will organise mutually beneficial study visits and exchanges for academic staff and students. The Kennedy Institute will facilitate publication of Shalom research through the medium of the online Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis.
Both organisations will work together to establish a virtual joint learning laboratory where joint research projects are conducted and learning generated will inform academic, policy-makers and practitioners. The learning laboratory will allow reflection, inquiry and experimentation and result in joint publications and new pedagogies, thus, bridging the gap between practice and the academy.
Signing the MoU, Peter Cassells said that the Kennedy Institute is looking forward to greater involvement by Shalom in the work of the Institute in the years ahead.
Dr Kieran Doyle, Assistant Director, Kennedy Institute said that the Institute is delighted to further its relationship with the Shalom Centre. “Over the last five years, Shalom’s work is most closely associated with our Masters Programme in International Peace-building, Security and Development Practice. In this programme, students absorb the architecture of peace-building with modules on mediation, peace processes, conflict analysis, and the integrated approach of working with multiple actors, such as governments, security actors and NGOs.
“It is a priority that these students continue to learn from the experiences of Fr. Devine and his colleagues who reflect the accumulated wisdom of Irish missionary influences on peace and justice. When Fr. Devine speaks, you discern, not only theories of peace-building but also the raw challenge of working with remote communities struggling for hope in ethnic and resource-based conflict.”
Speaking about a forthcoming initiative, he said: “We look forward to our continued partnership with Shalom and look forward to Fr. Devine’s contribution to our programmes in Spring 2020 when he will join us in residence for a period.”
Speaking after the signing, Fr. Patrick Devine said: “This memorandum will further enhance the role of peace practitioners validating the need for quality theoretical foundations to peace and development initiatives, generating enhanced technical mastery of conflict transformation skills. Moreover, it will also entail fostering a greater appreciation for the history of conflicts and the resilience of conflict memory.
“This will be realised through applying the highest academic research standards, thereby, countering the alarming dangers of unfounded speculation and conjecture as to the root causes of conflicts. Shalom in collaboration with the Kennedy Institute is looking forward to mutually advancing knowledge of conflict management processes and peace-building techniques in conflict environments.”
Established in 2011, the Kennedy Institute honours the late Senator Edward (Ted) M Kennedy for his lifelong commitment to justice, equality, human rights, education for all and environmental protection, and in particular for his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process. Senator Kennedy once said: “learning and scholarship have the power to change lives and transform society.” The overall aim of the Institute, through teaching theory and practice, research and community engagement, is to improve society’s capacity to deal constructively with conflict.
The Institute also honours what one could argue is Senator Kennedy’s most remarkable achievement of all – his ability to articulate a future where the causes of conflict, however ingrained, can be transcended; a future where society, economics, education and politics are organised in ways that support individuals, groups, communities and nations to work together for the benefit of all.
While the Institute is university based at the National University of Ireland (NUI, Maynooth) it has a high level of engagement with the wider community, including key practitioners and organisations active in the practice of conflict intervention, such as The Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation.
By coincidence, Fr. Devine was in Chicago this week as part of his fundraising – university lecture trip to the United States. There he met with Chris Kennedy whom he briefed on the work of Shalom-SCCRR and its partnership relationship with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. Chris Kennedy is son of the late Senator Bobby Kennedy, and a nephew of the late US President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
(Matt Moran is an author and writer based in Cork, Ireland. His forthcoming book is “The Theology of Integral Human Development”).