Jo Berry’s story is resonating in the hearts of many especially since her TEDx Exeter talk was published just a few weeks ago. She is part of a growing movement where even the most violated individuals protest against perpetuating violence and retaliation. She is amongst the most inspiring leaders lighting the way for peace. She has carved her own path through an eye-for-an-eye jungle and chosen to turn her own devastating tragedy into a force for good.

The TEDx day in Exeter, “Living the Questions” was fantastically inspiring, packed with incredible individuals sharing their amazing achievements and aspirations. Maybe I was biased being a friend, but Jo’s talk stood out above them all. Perhaps my bias is not so extreme considering the cheering, standing ovation echoed resolutely throughout the building for several minutes demonstrating just how much the audience had been moved by her talk.

I know that Jo embodies her passion for peace in every single moment of her life. However, I believe that this drive to transform conflict into peace would not happen if the world was not ready to embrace the opportunity for change. Testimonials and messages of thanks pour into Jo’s inbox throughout the year. Poignant words regularly hit home making you realise just how big the impact of Jo’s story is having.

Most of TEDx Exeter videos of the day were published on the 3rd June. In that time, the majority of them have achieved anything between 50 up to around 1,500 views. “Disarming with Empathy” has to date been seen over 17,500 times – that in itself is a phenomenal achievement. Tony Hawkes, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton, Marcus Brigstocke, Robert Llewellyn and many, many more have shared it to their thousands of followers. That makes me believe that the time for this idea has now definitely come.

Generations of tribal offensives and defence, churning society through the ages is now about how we squabble over familial discord, business territories and fences between neighbours. We know that conflict costs. Any price we pay is always too high.

Conflict does not discriminate. It lashes out as viciously against the young and vulnerable as it does against the stampede of trained soldiers with all their armoury. It burns mistrust and anger into the very core of every community, scarring the most fragile with memories that even the most resilient and desensitized should not suffer. Battles at home between partners and siblings is just as wrong as fighting bloody wars in bombed out zones of terror and tyranny. I am sure you agree that this has to stop.

Jo concludes her talk by sharing her vision and directly calling on people to heal humanity together. I think that it is about the time, that we all stood up and stood by her side and joined her. Don’t you?

 

Jo Berry has worked for over 10 years to resolve conflict around the world. Sixteen years after her father was killed by an IRA bomb, Jo first met with the man responsible, Pat Magee. Her preparedness to try to understand him opened a path to empathy that continues to develop. Their unusual relationship has been told in the BBC documentary “Facing the Enemy”, was featured in the film “Soldiers of Peace”, and inspired “The Bomb”, a play by Kevin Dyer.

The founder of Building Bridges for Peace, Jo advocates that empathy is the biggest weapon we have to end conflict. She has spoken over 100 times with Pat Magee and works regularly in the UK and in areas of conflict including Lebanon and Rwanda. Jo has worked with Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Forgiveness Project), the All Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, and Combatants for Peace. She is Chair of the International Network of Peace, and Visiting Fellow of the Institute of Democracy and Conflict Transformation at the University of Essex.”

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