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Tribute to Scilla Elworthy, Peace Direct’s co-founder, on the occasion of her leaving the Peace Direct Board

  • Published

    31 October 2013
  • Written by

    Carolyn Hayman

I met Scilla in the spring of 2002, when she was working on the concept of ‘Give Peace A Bank’. We shared the same goal, of providing funds and support to the local peacebuilding organisations that we knew existed in every conflict area. Their existence and efficacy had already been laid out in ‘War Prevention Works’ – 50 stories of non-violent interventions at all stages of conflict, commissioned by Scilla and researched and written by Dylan Mathews,  a current Peace Direct Board member.

Getting Peace Direct off the ground was hard work but Scilla was very persuasive and together we managed to recruit a Board and assemble enough funds to create the role of Chief Executive, which I took on in 2004.

Scilla has contributed so much to Peace Direct that it is hard to know where to start. So many supporters have come to us as a result of hearing Scilla speak, or more recently seeing her inspiring TED talk. Peace Direct in Germany was started by a group of people inspired by Scilla’s presentation at the Celebrate Life conference. And over the years many of our most generous and committed supporters have come to Peace Direct through Scilla.

Through Scilla’s contacts and her passionate belief in alternatives to violence, early in Peace Direct’s life we published ‘What If? Fallujah’, a reflection on how the appalling violence in Fallujah in 2004 might have been prevented. Her report was discussed by an eclectic group that included the Bishop of Baghdad, a noted documentary maker, a senior member of the US Marines and a 4 star British General, and formed the basis of the verité play, ‘Fallujah’.

As a Board member, Scilla helped to steer Peace Direct through the kind of financial storms that afflict most small and new organisations, always with a positive view to the future, and with a commitment that knew no limits.

At the end, I think my most cherished legacy from Scilla is eight words that she spoke at the World Peace Festival in Berlin in 2011. She challenged the audience to remember and act on these words:

‘Violence can be prevented. Peace can be planned.’

These words sum up why the work of our local peacebuilding partners is so crucial, and why ultimately peacebuilding is an intensely practical activity.

They will continue to resonate with me for as long as I am fortunate enough to work at Peace Direct.


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