In the weeks ahead of national Refugee Week, join us as we uplift the voices of those with histories of displacement. We’ll share food, music, and deep conversation about how to live courageously, even in these uncertain times.
What can we learn about moral courage from those who carry histories of displacement? What are the qualities of courage that we need to cultivate for a future that includes global displacement, and where ‘home’ needs to be re-imagined? How can we uplift the ancient practice of hospitality as a tool for shared sense-making and strengthening society?
Along with our speakers Rihab Azar, Kolbassia Haoussou and Aarif Abraham, come and join us as we explore what it means to live courageously in these times.
Kolbassia Haoussou began his career in campaigning and advocating when he co-founded the Survivor Speak OUT (SSO) network, a network led by those who had survived torture, campaigning for survivors. Shortly afterwards, SSO came under the umbrella of Freedom from Torture and Kolbassia found himself employed with Freedom from Torture as SSO Coordinator. Kolbassia has been instrumental in building Freedom from Tortures’ survivor activism and making sure survivors are centred in all aspects of the organisation. He is now the department head for the organisation’s newly founded Survivor Empowerment directorate. In 2020, he received an MBE for his service to torture and sexual violence survivors in the New Year honour list.
Rihab Azar was born in the Syrian city of Homs to a musical family. Her father, luthier Samir Azar made her first oud and started teaching her when she was 7 years old. She continued her musical quest later at the Conservatoire of Damascus and was taught by masters of the oud in Syria including Prof. Askar Ali Akbar, Issam Rafea, Mohamad Osman and Ayman Aljesry. The influences at the Conservatoire included Azerbaijani, Arabic, Turkish and Western classical music which allowed Rihab an understanding and practice of various genres.
Aarif Abraham is a Barrister, author and public speaker, practicing law at Garden Court North Chambers in Manchester. He specialises in international criminal, international human rights law, and public international law. Over the last few years, he has advised extensively and assisted, on setting up Tribunals and Inquiries, the most recent of which were the Special Tribunal for Crimes of Aggression against Ukraine and the Uyghur Tribunal – a People’s Tribunal to investigate China’s alleged Genocide and crimes against Humanity against Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslim populations.
Aarif is Co-Founder of the Yazidi Justice Committee and Founder and Acting Director the Accountability Unit. He acted as Legal Adviser to the Uyghur (UK) Tribunal and Junior Counsel on the movement to create a Special Tribunal for Crimes of Aggression Against Ukraine. Aarif has been instructed as a barrister, investigator and/or consultant on matters relating to international crimes, conflict resolution and transitional justice. He is currently on the roster of candidates, as an expert available for instruction, for a number of United Nations bodies as well for Justice Rapid Response and is a trustee of Coalition for Genocide Response, Aarif is the Author of ‘A Constitution of the People; and How to Achieve It’ (CUP, 2021).
In 2014, Rihab became the first woman oudist to perform accompanied by the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music. The same year marked her graduation and start as a teacher’s assistant for music theory subject at the Conservatoire of Damascus. Rihab was the oud player of the “Syrian Female Oriental Takht” from 2006 until 2015, the year in which she moved to the UK, sponsored by the Fo
reign and Common Wealth Office, to study Music Education at University College London. The Arts Council England recognised her as a musician of “Exceptional Promise” in December 2016, which allowed her to continue her professional pursuit in the UK under the “Migrant Talent” scheme. Rihab has toured internationally since 2008 and has had memorable collaborations with Cantata Dramatica, London Sinfonietta, The Third Orchestra, Stile Antico and soon will be touring with Theatre of the Voices, DK.
She has performed at iconic spaces in the UK and abroad such as the Royal Opera House, Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre, King’s Place, Wigmore Hall, Lambeth Palace,St.Paul’s Cathedral,The British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum,Imperial War Museum and at The National Museum of Denmark. Rihab has been increasingly writing original music for solo oud and various interdisciplinary contexts combining visual arts, story telling, theatre and radio plays. You can find out more about Rihab at Rihab Azar, London-Based Syrian Oud Player
Kolbassia, along with Freedom from Torture, has campaigned for a greater role for survivors in evidence-based policymaking. He believes that torture survivors are torture experts and their contribution is vital for change. Having impressed upon the government the importance of survivor voice, Kolbassia was appointed Survivor Champion for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office initiative Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict in October 2019. The role, (which was specifically created for Kolbassia and one other colleague), aims to deliver a number of goals. This includes access to holistic care for all survivors, ending stigma and ensuring justice and greater accountability. Outside of his daily work with SSO and Freedom from Torture, and true to Kolbassia’s helpful nature, he runs a music studio from his own flat for young people vulnerable to gang violence in South West London. He continues to mentor and play an advisory role in the lives of those he has mentored.
This is the third event in St Ethelburga’s year-long enquiry into the themes of faith and moral courage. Where does extraordinary courage come from? What can we learn from people who’ve risked everything to live up to their values? What forms of courage are especially needed in our age of unravelling, uncertainty and risk? How can we inspire ourselves and each other to grow our capacity to brave our limits? Are there simple practices that can help with this? Are there insights from the world’s spiritual and faith traditions that can help us grow our courage?
Jo is Manager of People of the Earth, a project of St Ethelburga’s that practices hospitality, welcome and community between settled, local people and migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, with the aim of building community resilience. Jo has over twenty five years experience in bringing people together in community to foster learning and understanding, and promote social repair and change. She has facilitated diverse groups in various settings including outside in nature and with volunteers in European refugee camps. Prior to working at St Ethelburga’s Centre she held roles in the interfaith and social care sectors, bridging divides between individuals and partners across sectors.
Clare is Co-Director of St Ethelburga’s. Previously Development Director, Clare created and led on the Radical Resilience programme and went on to be the strategic lead on our viewpoint diversity work, before stepping up to co-lead the centre alongside Tarot Couzyn. She brings more than 20 years’ experience facilitating groups for the sake of inner enquiry and outer change, and is interested in how contemplative practices can play a role in cultural repair. She has worked on numerous interfaith projects, most notably for Nisa Nashim, the Jewish Muslim Women’s Network. Prior to this, Clare worked as a communications consultant in the corporate and charitable sector. Currently she runs a community garden on her Hackney housing estate, where she lives with her husband and 10-year old daughter. Raised a Christian, Clare has also studied Buddhism and Sufism. You can read her thoughts on the role of visionary imagination in resilience building here, and here is a short piece about contemplation as an antidote to conflict.
St Ethelburga’s work sits at the intersection of climate and peace. We believe there can be no peace on Earth unless we also realise peace with Earth.
We offer events, training, leadership programmes and multimedia content which equip and inspire people to become peacemakers in their own contexts. Our project areas include community reconciliation, refugee inclusion, radical resilience, viewpoint diversity, and spiritual ecology.