Fr Gerry Reynolds: Re-Imagining Difference through Prayer? – Watch Live Tomorrow from the Univ of Groningen

I’m excited to be taking part in a conference on ‘Re-Imagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’ tomorrow at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain (CRCPD) at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. The conference celebrates the five-year anniversary of CRCPD.

I’ll be participating in a panel on ‘Conflict and Peacebuilding,’ presenting a paper based on my research for a biography of Fr Gerry Reynolds: ‘Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland: Re-Imagining Difference through Prayer? The Example of Fr Gerry Reynolds.’

The session is chaired by CRCPD’s Joram Tarusarira and includes Atalia Omer  from the University of Notre Dame, an expert on religion and nationalism and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; and Annette Jansen, a humanitarian practitioner and academic, Jansen Consultancy, who specializes on women, peace and security.

CRCPD will be streaming the conference live. My panel starts at 11 am Dutch time/10 am Northern Irish/Irish time.

[If the streaming link does not work, click on the CRCPD page and then click on the livestream link.]

The conference runs 13-15 September and has a stimulating programme featuring academics and practitioners from around the world. The full programme is below.

As I prepared for this conference by reflecting on how Christians in Northern Ireland began and maintained processes of re-imagining difference, I decided to focus on a practice that I think has been neglected in the study of faith-based peacebuilding: prayer.

Believe it or not, I actually did not discuss this topic with my friend Rev Steve Stockman from Fitzroy Presbyterian, who wrote an article on ‘Prayer – the poetic liturgy of revolution’ in last week’s Irish News.

It was only after reading Fr Gerry’s private journals, which spanned the decades of his ministry, that I realized the importance of prayer in equipping him for his long ministry in faith-based peacebuilding. That made me think that the role of prayer in faith-based peacebuilding is a topic that has not be adequately researched or understood.

The publicity material for the CRCPD conference poses this as one of the questions to be addressed:

‘What enables some people to have the power to choose to be different, while others are made different by the people and institutions around them?’

In my presentation I will argue that I do not think it is an exaggeration to conclude that prayer was a practice that enabled Fr Gerry to have the power to choose to be different.

I will include examples from Fr Gerry’s diaries, including his approach in prayer to the Reformer John Calvin, and the Rev Ian Paisley.

Re-Imagining Difference: Jubilee Conference of the Centre for Religion, Conflict & the Public Domain, Univ of Groningen: Programme

(All times in the Netherlands, subtract one hour for Ireland/N. Ireland/UK)

Wednesday 13 September –

9:30am – 10:45am


Studying Religion in Context, the Groningen Approach

Kim Knibbe, Brenda Bartelink, Joram Tarusarira and Erin Wilson.

10:45am – 11am tea coffee

11-1pm Conflict and Peacebuilding
Chair: Joram Tarusarira
Speakers: Gladys Ganiel – Queens University Belfast, Atalia Omer – University of Notre Dame, Annette Jansen – Humanitarian Practitioner and Academic, Jansen Consultancy.

1:pm – 2pm Lunch

2pm-4pm Secularity, Religion, Embodiment
Chair: Kim Knibbe
Speakers: Nadia Fadil – University of Leuven, Ebenezer Obadare – University of Kansas

4:30pm – 5pm Closing conversation day one

5-6pm – Reception

6:00-8pm – Keynote address – Prof Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Northwestern University
Response: Merete Bilde, Policy Adviser, European External Action Service

Thursday 14 September –

9:30am 10am– tea and coffee

10am-12:00noon: Displacement, Identity and Belonging
Chair: Erin Wilson
Speakers: Atalia Omer – University of Notre Dame, Luca Mavelli – University of Kent, Jose Riera – UN University of Peace and former policy advisor, UNHCR.

12- 1:30pm – Lunch

1:30-3:30pm – Global Institutions
Chair: Erin Wilson, University of Groningen
Speakers: John Rees – University of Notre Dame Australia, Iselin Frydenlund – Peace Research Institute Oslo, Tim Dixon – Purpose International

3:30-4pm – coffee

4-6pm – Law and Human Rights
Chair: Meadhbh McIvor, University of Groningen
Speakers: Helge Arsheim – University of Oslo, Maria de Lourdes Peroni Manzoni – University of Ghent, Gary McLelland – International Humanist and Ethical Union

6-6:30pm – closing conversation day two

Friday 15 September –

8:30am-9am – Coffee

9-11am – Development
Chair: Brenda Bartelink – University of Groningen
Speakers: Marie Juul Petersen – Danish Institute for Human Rights, Lisa LeRoux – Stellenbosch University

11-11:30am Coffee

11:30-1:30pm Public Panel Session ‘Religion, Secularism and the Politics of Difference’

Elisa di Benedetto, International Association of Religion Journalists
Gabrielle Bustamante, The Hague University of Applied Sciences
Yolande Jansen, University of Amsterdam
Joram Tarusarira, University of Groningen
Moderator: Brenda Bartelink, University of Groningen

1:30-3pm Lunch and close



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