"The following day at the conference I met Grada Kilomba, who spoke out about the repression of female voices of colour. She also took a Peace Mala with her.
"Hers was not the only presentation to tackle racism, sexism, gender equality and the need to change our education system. A consistent theme throughout was one of listening; of giving voice where voices have been repressed. About hearing and speaking through the layers and dispelling negative myths. About creating a new narrative, in which everyone is equal. As with everything, this begins at home."
On the last day of the conference Erin met Reem Sijari. Reem is a Syrian who has recently found refuge in Austria thanks to Viennese civilians who gathered together to create Trainofhope (https://www.facebook.com/hbfvie).
Reem closed the conference by telling those present her story, into a room silenced by the strength in her words. Her humour, eloquence and self deprecation took everyone somewhere beyond being humbled as they heard about her journey and her loss. Where there should have been questions afterwards there was, instead, a quiet and collective grief.
Erin commented; "The suffering that she has endured, witnessed and now has to live with is incomprehensible. Yet she retains a compassionate perspective devoid of petulant ego or resistance, completely embodying the ethos of perfect love and perfect trust, as did those who helped."
Reem said: "Those who bring war have no religion. With faith there is only acceptance."
Erin presented Reem with our symbolic dove of peace and a Peace Mala bracelet. Salaam Reem, may our dove of peace carry your message onward.
Erin Kavanagh with Reem Sijari
"Those who bring war have no religion. With faith there is only acceptance."