Cycling is like a company sport at Peace Direct, with 40% of us biking into work each morning. I’m a keen cyclist myself. So it seems apt that our supporters are getting on their bikes too!
Last month, supporter Sharon Cowen cycled from Cambridge to Edinburgh, and next month Duncan MacIntyre and his three friends will cycle from Ypres to Verdun. We wonder what supporters are going to come up with next – and we can’t wait to find out.
As a bit of a cycling-for-charity guru, Sharon’s ride was her third for a charity, this time to have some fun and raise some money for us. Duncan, on the other hand, is riding to both raise money for us and for another reason – in remembrance of World War One.
Early last year, wondering how to pay tribute to the hundredth anniversary of the start of that war, Duncan decided to get a group of people together to cycle the Western Front. His idea was to reflect on the horrors of the conflict, the acts of individual bravery, the millions of lives lost and the disruption and changes to family and social life. And also to question how and why it happened.
It’s a question we reflect on too, here at Peace Direct, where our daily work is about preventing the failures that in the past have led to so much war. What are our societies doing, and what have we learnt, to stop us making the same mistakes over the next 100 years? If we want the future to be more peaceful and less destructive than the past, then we should heed those failures and look for new approaches to building peace.
Conflict in so many parts of the world continues to be a grim feature of our daily news diet. For a while a particular issue grabs the headlines and leads to suggestions of intervention in various ways. But the international agenda so often moves on without any lasting resolution.
Yet in all these situations, there are individuals and groups working locally to try and stop violence – people who have local knowledge and insight into the causes of conflict and who are well placed to develop and implement local solutions. Whether it be women empowerment groups in Pakistan or livelihood projects in Congo, this local expertise and commitment could be supported and developed so that it becomes the first response, the first resort when a conflict looms.
Duncan’s journey is from Ypres to Verdun over 10 days, taking in Loos, Arras, Somme and Aisne valley, with time to visit battlefields and memorial sites along the way. The distance is some 300 miles. He and his three fellow-cyclists will undertake the challenge at the beginning of September.
Donations to support Duncan and his team can be made online – visit www.justgiving.com/duncan-macintyre. Alternatively you can send donations to our office, with a note that they are for Duncan’s WWI remembrance ride. It all happens to make a better future.