Nadege Conger, the founder of SabbaticalHomes.com, cherishes every opportunity to connect with members from different corners of the world. On a recent trip to Belfast, she had the pleasure of meeting Mari Fitzduff, a distinguished Irish policy maker, writer, and academic. Mari’s rich legacy in peacebuilding has made her a beacon of hope in the realm of conflict resolution.
The Journey of Mari Fitzduff: A Beacon of Hope in Peacebuilding
Born in Dublin in 1947, Mari grew up amidst the tension between Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. British soldiers patrolled the countryside, becoming deeply embroiled in the conflict. By 1993, their primary focus shifted to combating the IRA, which was responsible for numerous bombings.
Living in Mid-Ulster, known as “The Killing Fields,” due to its high political murder rate, Mari’s home was situated in a primarily Catholic area with a rich history of both Protestant and Catholic ancestry. Despite the political unrest, the region exuded natural beauty and serenity. However, the presence of paramilitary groups was palpable. A particular incident, where young British soldiers arrived at her doorstep shortly after she spotted IRA members outside, made her reflect deeply on the need for peaceful conflict resolution.
This profound experience ignited a passion in Mari to seek non-violent conflict resolution methods. She delved into the emerging field of Conflict Resolution, and despite the limited resources available in pre-internet Northern Ireland, she pursued a doctorate. She worked with ex-sectarian activists who had transitioned to advocating dialogue between the two sides.
By 1986, Mari was at the forefront of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, initiating conflict resolution and mediation programs at esteemed institutions like Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast. Her pivotal role in 1989 as a founding member of the Mediation Network further solidified her commitment. This network trained and supplied mediators for community and political mediations throughout Northern Ireland.
Mari’s Academic Legacy: Leading the Way at Brandeis
Mari’s unparalleled expertise in peacebuilding caught the attention of international academic circles. Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management approached her to establish and lead the Masters Conflict and Coexistence Programme.
This 16-month Master of Arts program is enriched by students from 20 to 30 different countries. The program of study is meticulously designed to equip students with practical, skills-based knowledge, enabling them to become responsible peacebuilding practitioners. The program’s curriculum rests on three pivotal pillars: understanding conflict, honing conflict intervention skills, and supporting individuals and communities through conflict resolution.
Mari’s leadership at Brandeis spanned an impressive 17 years. During this period, she balanced a bi-continental lifestyle, splitting her time between Boston, Massachusetts, and Ireland. Her tenure witnessed the program’s evolution to address contemporary challenges, such as online radicalization and the rise of nationalist movements. As she recently retired, Mari’s legacy at Brandeis University remains, inspiring countless students to champion peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
Building Bridges: A Shared Vision of Peace
Mari’s unwavering passion for global peace deeply resonated with Nadege Conger’s vision for SabbaticalHomes.com. Their shared commitment to building bridges and fostering global connections is evident in their respective endeavors.
Since 2004, Mari has actively used SabbaticalHomes.com, listing her homes in Cambridge, Belfast, and Dublin. This platform has enabled her to host a myriad of tenants from around the globe, some of whom have returned multiple times, forging lasting bonds.
One such heartwarming connection was with a tenant from Thailand. This tenant revealed a delightful coincidence: they were acquainted with the individual who had translated one of Mari’s books. Stories like this underscore the interconnectedness that the SabbaticalHomes community fosters.
Belfast: Historic Landmarks of Tribute and Peace
Along with its history of political unrest, Belfast also has multiple landmarks dedicated to stability and peace. The Linen Hall Library in Belfast was used by all the political parties as a neutral location for difficult meetings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
There is also the recently unveiled statue of the black American anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass. In 1845-46, Douglass stayed in Ireland and visited Belfast many times. His time in Ireland was punctuated by lectures he delivered on temperance and to bring awareness to the atrocities of slavery that were taking place across the Atlantic.
Mari’s Dublin Listing: Charity Through Homestays
Mari’s listings on SabbaticalHomes.com are more than just homes; they are gateways to global connections. Her “Dublin by the Sea” listing in Dun Laoghaire, a serene house a mere 5-minute walk from the sea, stands as a testament to her impeccable taste.
With its proximity to Dublin’s heart, the house offers both tranquility and accessibility. The efficient DART tram service, a mere five minutes away, connects residents to Dublin’s vibrant core. The house, with its garden featuring a prolific apple tree and a swing, promises comfort and warmth to its tenants.
Mari’s philanthropic spirit shines brightly in her decision to channel the rental income from her Dublin home to a charity combatting homelessness in the city. This gesture is a testament to her deep-rooted commitment to social causes. Every tenant, while enjoying their stay, indirectly contributes to this noble cause. In doing so, everyone who stays in her Dublin home makes difference in the lives of Dublin’s homeless.
Learn More: The Neuroscience of Conflict and Peacebuilding
If you are interested in reading more about Mari Fitzduff’s work, her most recent book is Our Brains at War: The Neuroscience of Conflict and Peacebuilding (2021) published by Oxford University Press.
Nadege’s meeting with Mari is just one of the many tales of connection, community, and collaboration that we cherish. We look forward to sharing more such stories with you in the future.