There is always so much going on at Greenbelt that it's only ever possible to catch bits of it. So my Greenbelt 2011 will probably be very different from anyone else's (apart from the MediaNet reception - thanks MediaNet). One theme which emerged very strongly was that of good coming out of evil, light from darkness, life from death - a traditional Easter theme but it appeared in some surprising ways.
First was during an excellent presentation by Martin John Nicholls in the Christian Aid Tent. His mixture of songs and stories about injustice in The West Bank is a common Greenbelt theme and towards the end he handed around leaves of mint which he invited us to crush to release the strong aroma - (I think they must drink lots of mint tea in Palestine!) What struck me was the truth that only by crushing the leaf were we able able to appreciate the wonderful scent it possessed.
Next was Rob Bell who started his talk from Mainstage with a series of personal stories which, to my mind, said the same thing - it was only when disaster struck (I imagine being crushed is disaster for a leaf) that he was able to start moving into a better place.
The third example was the strongest of all and came from the highlight of Greenbelt, as far as I am concerned. Barry and Margaret Mizen lost their son, Jimmy on his 16th birthday. He was murdered in a local bakery shop by another boy with a history of violence. The next day they went to church as usual. The press and tv were there and Margaret told them that she did not feel anger. She and Barry knew that if they clung to anger it would destroy them - if they let it go they could move on. They did not pretend that life for their family was easy, particularly during the murder trial, but it quickly became apparent to those of us privileged to hear this talk that some amazing outcomes have resulted from this appalling murder.
They are both passionate about finding ways to stop the violence which is gripping parts of our country. They go into prisons and schools listening and sharing their story, they are committed to finding the right interventions to stop adolescents embarking on a life of violent crime. "Ever harsher punishments are not the answer" says Barry "but we can't leave it to the police or the government - each one of us is responsible" They have initiated "City Safe Havens" where adults and children can find refuge - there are 250 of these now - shops, libraries, even London City Hall. "We must build our communities", he says.
Faith is important to them but not just their own Roman Catholic faith, Barry described how the day after Jimmy was murdered he opened his front door to find the man who runs the local dry cleaners standing there in full Muslim attire. No words were exchanged, they just hugged each other, two dads sharing grief.
The message the Mizens brought to Greenbelt was one of peace, love and hope. Barry thinks that the recent riots could be the catalyst that finally makes us focus on the changes which need to happen. "But change starts with each and every one of us" he said.
They started their talk with "we are just an ordinary mum and dad, not public speakers." Well, maybe but it was the most powerful session I have experienced in a long while.