Lord Mayor welcomes European students

October’s Relais de la Memoire Juniors Conference at Dame Allan’s Schools aimed to promote reconciliation in Europe and beyond

Over 100 students and staff from around Europe were awestruck by Richard Moore’s account of how he lost his sight in the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1972 when he was just 10 and the impact it had on his life.Moore is the founder of the charity Children in Crossfire, author of Can I Give Him My Eyes and subject of the BBC documentary Blind Vision. He was the keynote speaker at the two day Relais de la Mémoire Juniors Conference.

The Lord Mayor, Cllr George Pattison, formally welcomed the students and their teachers to Newcastle at the start of the conference. He expressed his pride in welcoming them all, encouraging them to make the most of their unrivalled opportunity to meet and learn at first hand from survivors of war and conflict. He reminded them of the importance of the name of their organisation: “Memory Builds the Future”.

In his moving and inspiring talk Richard Moore explained the lessons he learned about forgiveness. The BBC tracked down Major Charles Inness, the British soldier who fired the rubber bullet which had resulted in his blindness. The two men finally met in 2006 in what Richard Moore described as “one of the most wonderful experiences of my life”.

Major Charles Inness was one of 12 speakers at the conference who were tackling the complex theme of ‘Victims and perpetrators of torture’. They described their experiences in World War II and conflicts in Afghanistan, Sudan and Rwanda.

Describing the nature of forgiveness, Richard Moore went on to say: “There is no question, I am a victim of violence and I have no control over that but I am not a victim of anger and I do have control of that.”

Richard Moore listed his achievements, not, as he said, to be boastful but to emphasise that he always had choices, even as a blind person. This led him to set up his charity, ‘Children in Crossfire’ to help children who may have their eyesight, but do not have the choices he had.

Richard Moore’s story has been praised by the Dalai Lama who has declared: “I encourage people across the World to hear what Richard has to say.”

Relais is an international organisation founded to keep alive the memories of the Second World War and to promote reconciliation and understanding in Europe and beyond.

Dame Allan’s has the honour of being the UK’s representative on Relais de la Mémoire.

As well as Dame Allan’s Schools’ students, representatives from local schools were invited to attend, too. The conference was conducted throughout in French, German and English.

Dame Allan’s Principal, Dr John Hind, said: “The Relais conferences give all the students an opportunity to meet inspirational people who, often from humble beginnings, have made a remarkable contribution to understanding and reconciliation. Dame Allan’s students have been privileged to meet founder members of Relais, including Stephane Hessel, co-author of the Declaration of Human Rights and Abel Farnoux, government adviser to President Mitterrand.”

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