Author of three collections published by Doire Press, in 2016 - 2018 Susan's poems have appeared, among elsewhere, in: The Cafe Review, Oregan, USA - Gather In, in a Special Irish Edition; Bosom Pals,Ed Marie Cadden (Doire Press, 2017) an anthology entirely in aid of Breast Cancer Research in the National UniveristyHospital, Galway and When They've Grown Another Me in Poetry Ireland Review, Dec 2018. January 2018 has seen her poems Commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Competition.

She has been an invited reader of her poems at local readings in Galway, Cork and Dublin and at festivals, including the Belfast Book Festival, Cuirt International Festival of Literature and Clifden Arts Festival. Her poems have been read on radio.

Susan completed her degree in social science and qualified as a professional social worker in Trinity College, Dublin 1975. She was a psychotherapist, trainer, facilitator and occasional consultant to organisations for over thirty years until her retirement in 2012. Drawing together her writing with her earlier skills she has written interviews and facilitated conversations mediated by poetry. She continues to work on a manuscript relating the story of starting out in poetry and a mid-life move West along with occasional other creative non-fiction pieces.

Her workshop Having a New Conversation: About Dreaming was listed on the The Cuirt International Festival of Literature Programme (2015) and she facilitates similar workshops on a variety of themes, discussed through the medium of poetry, regularly and occasionally in local community settings.

While a founding editor of Skylight 47 Susan interviewed: then Ireland Professor of Poetry, Harry Clifton; Kay Ryan, former US Poet Laureate invited to Ireland by Dromineer Literature Festival and Dani Gill who talks about curating The Cuirt International Literature Festival. Her most recent interview, of Maeve O'Sullivan, appears in The Honest Ulsterman February, 2018.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Ireland to Lead the Way in Developing Inclusive Religious Education - A Target

 With Ireland’s missionary history and the resultant diaspora, Ireland’s education system should develop an inclusive religious vision to support the development of peaceful structures for a global future. Karen Armstrong won the 2008 prize for her talk to TED. She proposed an international Charter, to be compiled by representatives of all the major world religions in conjunction with the United Nations, based on The Golden Rule, that you do onto others as you would like done to you or, at least, do not treat others as you would not wish to be treated yourself. ‘Every single religion’ believes in this core rule, espoused by Confucius well before Christ.

The TED prize led to the birth of the Charter for Compassion. Those who do not believe in a particular religion, or religion at all, would be inclined to agree with its principle. Atheists, too, agree on compassion and basic goodness, they just don’t believe religion is a necessary component. No-one who thinks seriously about religion – either for or against – is against what has come to be described as this basic rule. Cities in many countries are signing up to the global Charter.

Within that context the value of different religious perspectives can be explored and understood, including atheism and agnosticism. Surely that is the kind of inclusive religious understanding it would be good to teach our children!

You can watch Karen Armstrong's prize-winning speech here. (It's worth watching whatever your views.)

‘We are living in world where religion has been hijacked… A lot of religious people prefer to be right rather than compassionate… it is time to move beyond toleration to appreciation’ Armstrong at TED.

In the context of diversity, there need be little problem with children learning the practices and perspective of particular religious creeds. I recall international conferences where teachers of Eastern religions, popular with the Westerners turning to them, kept insisting that ‘this is in your own religion too, you should develop your practice there’.  Learning more particular practice could be partially done in the classroom – everyone’s religious practice should be of interest to everyone else so as to fully understand it – and the final part could be undertaken (such as preparations for First Communions) in their own particular religious establishments.

Mindfulness meditation, based on research findings about its benefits, is now taught by psychologists and others who have been trained to teach it, for wellbeing and good mental health alone. It may have come from Buddhism but the process is essentially similar to the more mystical practices of Christianity such as ‘centring prayer’. Those who argue for a more activist, justice based, faith can have no problem with discussion about justice issues and the questions activism raise. Considerations about to how to make the world a better place are relevant to everyone in education. The perspectives of different religions on the theme are relevant.

There need be no problem in developing an inclusive and inspiring religious education system. It might well be a system that would prepare students far more effectively in learning to live in faith – religious or otherwise. It could be somewhere for Ireland to lead, as the missionaries did with earlier understandings.  

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