Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

Diana and John Lampen

1938 -

Forgiveness is a medicine which can heal these hurts, but to reach the place where forgiveness can be offered and accepted can be a long, hard journey.

John Lampen, Mending Hurts, Swarthmore Lecture 1987

Diana Lampen (1940 - ) and John Lampen (1938 - ) have worked in peace and reconciliation in spheres ranging from a therapeutic community for young boys, via Derry in Northern Ireland in the lead up to the Good Friday peace accord, to their present work as peace educators with the Hope Project.

The couple were married in 1962, and became Quakers in 1969. In the early years of their marriage, they worked at Shotton Hall, a therapeutic community for emotionally disturbed teenage boys. John became Headmaster in 1972, and they remained there until 1982. In his Swarthmore Lecture, Mending Hurts, given in 1987, John drew on many examples of his work with the troubled young boys who were in his care.

In 1976, the Lampens met Will Warren, an English Quaker working for peace and reconciliation in Derry, Northern Ireland. In 1983, after leaving Shotton Hall, they spent three months in South Africa, meeting peaceworkers there, including the Quaker HW van der Merwe. There they also met hardliners on both sides of the racial divide who, as John wrote, “disabused us of any idea that ... those who are designated as ‘terrorists’ or ‘bigots’ must be psychopaths.

John moved to Derry in 1983, where Diana and their two sons joined him in 1984. For the next ten years, they were both involved in many community development, peace and mediation initiatives.  They joined the Derry Peace and Reconciliation Group (PRG), which had been inspired by the work of Will Warren. The PRG gradually became a trusted channel for complaints against the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the local police force) and the British security forces, and helped persuade them to improve their relations with the community. For example, they would talk to soldiers about to go out on patrol, helping them not to view everyone they met as the enemy. Aware, too, that changing attitudes towards violence amongst ordinary people, and especially young people, would give politicians ‘permission to work for peace’, they brought 16-17 year olds from both communities together to work on a vision for future.

John became the first Chair of Ulster Quaker Peace Education Project, as well as working in schools for the programme, which trained young people in peace skills and mediation, and teachers as peace educators.  It organised city-wide children's conferences in Derry, and shared its skills in Uganda and Eastern Europe. John also became Moderator of the Board of Community Affairs of the Irish Council of Churches, helped to review Prisons in Northern Ireland for the Irish churches, and co-chaired the Churches' Working Party on Sectarianism.

Meanwhile, Diana Lampen became a member of the Corrymeela Community, a group founded in 1965 to help individuals and communities suffering as a result of the violence in Northern Ireland. She organised annual cross-community family holiday weeks there.

Diana regularly taught yoga in different areas of the divided city, seeing it as a way to help people find a measure of inner peace She also served on a Derry City Council committee for Travelling (Itinerant) people, establishing sites where they could live, and reducing local prejudice, and took part in a scheme that allowed lay visitors to check on detainees in police custody. 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, peace initiatives were secretly underway in both Belfast and Derry. In Derry, the PRG proposed a number of steps to de-escalate the conflict, many of which were quietly implemented behind the scenes.

The role the PRG played in mediating between the IRA and British security forces and politicians was inadvertently revealed in 1993 in a report by the Opsahl Commission, though the IRA denied it. However, in The Secret History of the IRA [2002], Ed Moloney wrote,

The role John Lampen and two former paramilitary members of the PRG undertook as mediators ... was to play a largely unreported but significant part in the IRA’s journey to the 1994 cease-fire.

In 1994, the Lampens returned to England as freelance peace workers and set up The Hope Project, offering training in peace building skills and the creative handling of conflict. One strand of work since then has been with the West Midlands Quaker Peace Education Project. Over ten years, they have helped develop peace education in schools in Belarus and Ukraine. More recently, they worked with peace and reconstruction projects in Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia, including one with the United Nations Development Programme.  

In 1998, John was a founder member of Anti Mines Network–Rwenzori, in Western Uganda, supporting work which helped lead to Uganda being declared mine-free in 2012. He is also a Board member of Rwenzori Peace Bridge, a network of grassroots organisations, and helped design its training programme in conflict resolution, community and school mediation, legal advice work and group development. 

At home, Diana and John both lead events and retreats on Quaker themes.  

Print this article

Further Reading and Credits

further reading
  • Facing Death Diana Lampen 1979
  • Mending Hurts; John Lampen, Swarthmore Lecture, 1987
  • A Small Share in History  Diana & John Lampen (an account of their work in Eastern Europe )
  • Answering the Violence – encounters with perpetrators; John Lampen, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 2011