Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, the founder of Rethinking Conflict, a UK based non-profit working in the field of conflict transformation, peace building and reconciliation, conducted a series of lectures, seminars and panel discussions around his experience with the peace process in Northern Ireland.
As an ordained Methodist Minister, Mason previously served as Superintendent of the East Belfast Methodist Mission and led the building of the largest faith-based community economic development project in Europe.
Over the years Mason has worked with both Republican and Loyalist communities in peace building and reconciliation. He has facilitated dialogue between these groups on numerous occasions. Behind the scenes he has taken part in discussions with those wedded to violence in Northern Irish society, trying to present an alternative way to resolve their differences.
During his lecture “Responding to Terrorism: Lessons fro Northern Ireland,” Dr. Mason said while their peace process in Ireland isn’t perfect, there are lessons to be learned for other conflicts, particularly the Middle East.
“I’m not saying that the Good Friday Agreement is the template for the Middle East but it’s one of the more successful peace processes of the last 100 years,” he said. “Some of the lessons we talk about from the Good Friday Agreement are things like trying to create a win-win situation for people who disagree with one another and trying not to humiliate the other person.”
Dr. Mason also noted that one of the key components to conflict transformation is the idea of listening to someone they disagree with.
“You either learn to share the space together or you go back to conflict. From my perspective it’s better having conversations than moving towards conflict,” he said. "I often say there are three ways to resolve conflict: genocide/annihilation where you completely destroy your enemy. Second is containment, you kind of contain the problem militarily, and the third one is negotiation. Basically even if politics is not the real cause of the conflict, there ultimately is some form of political solution to it. So people have to learn to dialogue and compromise to resolve that."
On Wednesday, September 12, Dr. Mason spoke to the Women’s Studies Colloquium on women’s roles in peacemaking in Northern Ireland from 12:00 to 12:50 p.m. in Jayne’s Hall, room 304. At 7:00 p.m., Mason joined Fairmont State University faculty in a discussion about the campus book HillbillyElegyby J.D. Vance. The panel discussion was in the Folklife Center.
On Thursday, September 13, Dr. Mason spoke on the changing Irish culture in the Falcon Center conference area at 12:30 p.m.
Mason holds a Ph.D. from the School of Psychology at the University of Ulster. He completed his theological studies at Queens University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in business studies from the University of Ulster.
These events were free and open to the public.