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Andrew Stallybrass
Andrew Stallybrass
Andrew Stallybrass is an Anglo-Swiss protestant, living in Geneva, active in inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

Trustbuilding in Richmond


by: on July 6th, 2010 | Comments Off

Marrying a foreigner and living in their country — as both my brother and I have done (we’re English but I live in Switzerland and my brother in the States) — can be a challenge: not just to fit in but to work out when to contribute by not exactly fitting in. My own experience leaves me doubly impressed by my old friend Rob Corcoran, a Scot and a white man, who married an American and went to live in Richmond, the former capital of the Southern states. When they arrived there, they moved into a mixed race neighbourhood, and quickly a couple of African-American neighbours became good friends. As an outsider perhaps my friend was better placed to see old problems with fresh eyes.

Out of their experience grew a programme called Hope in the Cities. Rob has now written a book about the experience: Trustbuilding: An Honest Conversation on Race, Reconciliation, and Responsibility published by the University of Virginia Press. It is in part a history of a trust-building and reconciliation work that started in Richmond, but has now reached out to individuals and communities in many other parts of the world. But the book is also a helpful text book, a ‘how to build trust’ handbook. Simple questions (such as ‘Who is not taking part in the conversation?’) challenge the would-be do-gooder. Do I only interact with those who already think like me? Corcoran quotes African-Americans who are meeting whites in an ‘honest conversation’ for the first time; and Republicans who have never really talked in deeper interaction over several hours with a Democrat.

One fascinating practical realization that Corcoran and his friends helped with is The American Civil War Center in Richmond, ‘the nation’s first museum to interpret the Civil War from Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives.’ I look forward to visiting it the next time I’m in the USA. I want to dream about an Israeli-Palestinian museum that tells the history of that troubled part of the world from different perspectives.

Trust — a Fair Default Mode for Our Relationships?


by: on June 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments »

Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan is one of the most visible Muslims in Europe. Charismatic, loved, hated, feared. A source of inspiration for many young European Muslims, a reference; suspected and accused of double talk by many non-Muslims.

I consider him a friend; I wrote a review for Tikkun, defending him against Caroline Fourest’s book attacking him.

At a conference that I helped to organize, Ramadan was coming to speak. There were also two Muslim imam friends present, and I asked each in private what they honestly thought of him. One told me: “I hope that I don’t shock you, but I think that he is the Martin Luther of Islam.” The second said: “He is a dangerous reformer.” Interesting. They seem to agree, I thought!

Personally, I like and trust him. But I sometimes wonder whether I’m too trusting by nature. Am I naïve? Blind to the real dangers around? The other day, I met an academic, Swiss, who worked with Ramadan for several years. He told me that he’d been a little suspicious, given the things that he’d heard in the media. He found friends whose knowledge of the Koran and of Arabic was up to the task, and asked them to discretely check. Was there any suspicion of the much discussed “double language”? He also got to know the family and the children. “Children can’t fool you,” he said — and he found no trace of any sinister, hidden message.

Perhaps trust is not such a bad default mode for our relationships?