THE founder of a charity set up to tackle sectarianism is encouraging a new generation of Scots to build bridges across society.
Cara Henderson, who co-founded Nil by Mouth in 2000 in response to the brutal sectarian murder of her school friend Mark Scott, addressed more than 200 young people from across south-west Scotland as part of a special peace conference held in Dumfries.
Those who seek to promote division in our world know that their strongest weapon is apathy and the reluctance of others to become involvedCara Henderson
The event was organised by the Rotary Peace Advocate Programme which is delivered by Rotarians, teachers and community workers in schools and community groups across the country.
The conference, entitled ‘Battle Your Beasts’, was led by young people who are making a difference to their own lives and those of others in their schools and communities.
The programme began in 2011 when Rotarians started working with pupils at Kirkcudbright Academy, with the aim of developing peaceful resolution skills which would enable them to conquer conflict in themselves, family circles, schools and in wider society.
Henderson was invited to reflect on the highs and lows of her 15 year-campaign to challenge sectarianism and the work of her charity Nil by Mouth, which she set up when still a teenager.
“Those who seek to promote division in our world know that their strongest weapon is apathy and the reluctance of others to become involved,” she said.
“They deal in grudge and grievance, both real and imagined, and seek to drive a wedge between people. This programme challenges this approach head on by providing a platform and framework for young people to positively shape the world around them.
“It reminds young people that they are not just our tomorrow but also our today and that they can be the generation which builds bridges higher than walls.”
Jean Best, Rotary district peace officer, said: “Many young people are plagued with overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness that transcend racial, political, and economic boundaries. Yet as Cara as shown there is a boldness and bravery in youth and a desire to see the world for its possibilities.
“As a teenager she encouraged Scotland to face up to sectarianism and we know many of our young people are equally determined to create change. The young people who have been involved in our ‘Peace Advocate’ scheme are extremely passionate about this cause and would like to see it ‘rolled out’ in schools across the country. The terrible events of recent weeks have reinforced the important message that peace is not something we can take for granted and we are determined to do all we can to ensure that the next generation has the skills required to build a peaceful society.”