The night of 13th September 2014 was the worst of my life. The night that my life changed forever.
Myself and my partner had already gone to bed when the phone rang. As I walked downstairs, I already feared the worst. The voice at the other end of the line was all too familiar: the support worker handling my brother’s case. We had spoken countless times about my brother since his abduction 18 months earlier. Then the news I had been dreading came; David was no longer with us.
One by one, I gathered my family together in the living room and broke the news; David – a son, a father, a husband, an uncle, my brother – had been taken away from us. Murdered by the terrorist group known as Daesh.
Eighteen months prior, David, a humanitarian worker, had gone to Syria with NGO, ACTED, to help deliver aid in the refugee crisis. Helping people of all backgrounds had always played a large part in David’s life – whether it was during our childhood in far-flung countries like Malaya and Cyprus following my father’s work, or during his time in the RAF – Syria was no different.
My family were devastated by his loss. Not a day has gone by that we do not miss him. Channeling that emotion has been very hard for us all, as you can imagine, but I cannot stress more the importance of directing that energy to do good. Every action has a reaction and it has been my mission over the years to help ensure that our reaction is one of unity and togetherness.
I will not stand by and let hatred enter my own community and others across the country. I will not watch from afar while extremists, whether ISIS supporters or on the far right, seek to sow fear, mistrust and division in towns and cities across our great land.
As the famous quote by the philosopher Edmund Burke goes, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.
So, now I go by invitation to schools, youth groups, churches, mosques, organisations here in the UK and abroad. I go to talk of unity, tolerance and understanding. I go to fight the hate, fear and discord terrorists of all types seek to sow in our communities. If we let them bring hate into our lives, they succeed. If we hate they win, and I am going to do everything I can to fight against that.
The latest Global Acts of Unity Schools Tour kicked off last Monday. It started with a number of visits to schools, colleges and madrasahs. I was tackled with some very tough questions (which is always a good sign!) and the interactions with the students have been truly incredible. Added to that, the take-up of our latest initiative, the Young Ambassadors Challenge cards, has been overwhelming and really makes it all worth it.
In my eyes, education is the antidote to hate; prejudice, racism and hatred are all borne out of ignorance. By educating our children, the peacemakers of tomorrow, we can cure this societal illness and bring about a better community for one and all in the future.
With that in mind, I have been working with professionals to develop some useful classroom resources for teachers and parents. Many teachers have used these resources following on from my visits, striving to keep that all-important dialogue with the students going. These resources can be found on Educate Against Hate and on Global Acts of Unity.
In standing up to extremism, we need to be courageous, we need to be united and, most importantly, we need to empower young minds. Embrace the opportunity to learn from one another; visit the Global Acts of Unity website; access EAH teaching resources on here. Together, we WILL overcome hate.