The fourth International Peace Summit, hosted in partnership with the Tutu Foundation, brought together a raft of experts from wide-ranging backgrounds: politics, the media, NGOs, the voluntary sector, academics and students to consider how trouble spots can become safe spaces.
With the emphasis of the Summit always on bringing together different voices, encouraging discussion and sharing approaches to building peace, the list of eminent speakers included Sir Michael Palin, Andrew Mitchell QC, 2020 London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, Director General Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan of the Islamic Centre and London Central Mosque and South African High Commissioner to the UK, Nomatemba Tambo.
First keynote speaker of the day, Michael Palin regaled the audience with tales of his travels around the world, particularly in relation to North Korea.
‘I think hate comes from ignorance and it comes from fear, and I’ve never been one to avoid going to countries just because they have a particular background because I do think that through meeting the people you find a different story and the people want to tell their story.’
Initially, Palin was apprehensive to travel to North Korea as it ‘does have a reputation as being one of, what shall we say, the cruellest, most oppressive regimes in the world. It was somewhere that very few people went to, largely because it was very difficult to get to but I said yes, alright let’s go’. But once there, found that actually ‘I didn’t feel that we were in any way the object of hate, content or even mistrust. You could almost feel - not just that there was no hatred there - but things were positively going in another direction.’
Another topic of conversation on the day was perspectives of hate and resolutions, with panellists Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan, Emily Buchanan, and Sir John Jenkins.
Dr Al Dubayan stated that the issue with hate is that ‘hate is not just a feeling, it’s a feeling attributed to religion, and that makes it really very complicated for society’. Terrorists in today’s age, he says, are exploiting this and taking advantage of such a feeling.
Drawing reference to the terror attack in Christchurch in March, Dr Al Dubayan said that ‘when hate is anywhere in a society, it has two results; one of them is to encourage those people who have the same feelings to do something similar to what happened, and secondly, it also starts a reverse hate from the other side against the people’.
Concluding his speech, Dr Al Dubayan looked to the future, saying that ‘we need to look at the world as one big society for all of us. We need to recognise the contributions made by other people, other civilisation, other countries.
‘We need to see human civilisation as one family. We have differences and these differences will make us more beautiful.’
Regent’s was also honoured to host Dr Victor Olisa, Natalia Morgan, Mark Murray and Noel Coward, who spoke passionately about hate crimes - youth and gang gun and knife crimes.
Dr Olisa, a retired Chief Superintendent with the Metropolitan Police highlighted the growing rates of knife related killings, but that what goes largely ignored by the media, is the number of life changing injury caused by knife crime that doesn’t result in a fatality.
‘Since 2008, which was the last time we had a significant increase in youth killings, particularly in London, we had a drop in the level of young people killed through the use of knives and guns. Until last year.
‘In 2008, there were 26 young people killed with knives in London, and that figure dropped until last year, 2018, when we had 42. Those figures are shocking by any standard, however, what you don’t get in the media, is the number of knife related crime, and the number of those young people who are injured, but don’t die.
‘A young person stabbed in the buttocks, the groin, the thigh – a little knowledge is dangerous, and the offenders look for vital organs. The consequences of those injuries are life changing for the victims; it probably damages their reproductive system, they might spend the rest of their lives wearing a colostomy bag. Those are significant injuries, that take away the life chances of young people.
‘The figures around death are absolutely unacceptable, but the figures around injury are even worse. The reason I mention this, is I think we can all do something towards looking for a solution to this.
‘I started by mentioning 2008 – ten years later, we’ve come round full circle to where we are going through this process all over again. Is it cyclical? I hope not. I believe organisations, communities, institutions, government, can do something to try and help.’
Natalia Morgan, still only 17 and an Advocacy Academy student, shared her lived experience of knife crime. Having first experienced it at six, when her friends’ brother was stabbed to death at 16, and again a couple of years after she was witness to an argument on a bus, which resulted in another loss of life. At eleven, Natalia’s own cousin was murdered.
‘I’m sick of hearing that knife crime is a national emergency. I’m sick of hearing the headlines and hearing police sirens without seeing actual tangible action being put in place on the streets. Since the death of my friends’ brother over a decade ago, knife crime has only got worse, and there has been no real action to actually tackle it.
‘While I do think the conversations being had are important, and I do think they need to be had, if we are going to have them, they should include more youths. More people like myself, and other youths, who have the lived experience. Unless you have the lived experience, you cannot truly combat this issue.
‘We need compulsory metal detectors outside every school and sixth form college, tighter restrictions on purchasing knives on line, which looks like background checks and looking into the intent and purpose of the purchase. Right now anyone can order a weapon and there are no questions asked.’
To conclude, Natalia implored the audience to understand the speed with which youth crime needs resolving.
‘Youth violence is not all my generation is about, and is not all my generation should be known for, but until something is done, until the youth are a part of the conversation, it will be.
‘This needs to be addressed before there is no youth community left. For the sake of all of those futures – for the sake of my cousin, for my friends’ brother, for my little brother – for all of their futures.’