Richard McNeil-Willson

Richard McNeil-Willson

Richard McNeil-Willson is the Research Associate for the BRaVE Project, based at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy

Location Florence, Italy


  • شكرا يا سعد اللحياني, امل تيتمتع الدورة في الأسبوعين ٢ و٣!

  • Hi Peter, Week One provides a lot of the background for interfaith, looking at the problem of violent extremism and polarisation. Week Two looks more actively at interfaith, and Week Three looks at how to put interfaith into practice, and consider the impacts that interfaith projects can have on violent extremism and polarisation.

  • Good point Peter, and I think that even those who are critical of PREVENT are more concerned that it is counter-productive or causes more problems.

  • To a certain extent, yes, although I think PREVENT is more focussed on risk and safeguarding individuals than on community-wide resilience, and perhaps a better response would be to shift focus more onto community empowerment and resilience.

  • Hi Claudia, there is some discussion over the role of socioeconomics later in the course. As resilience relies on communities being able to access many kinds of resources, as well as opportunities and means of intergroup engagement, the decline of welfare systems can undermine resilience. Of course, there are many factors involved in violent extremism, but...

  • شكرا يا ياسين
    هو يبحث هذه أيضا (BRaVE). نقاش الهوية الوطنية مهم في التطرف العنيف ومشروع

  • This is an excellent point Orowole, and we try to deal with socioeconomic factors at a later stage in the course. I appreciate that they are often not very well considered in discussions over responses to extremism, however, and more work needs to be done in centralising them.

  • These are great points and complex discussions - the current debates over the role of slave-owner statues is a good example of changing discussions. And we should be careful not to assume too much that historical rivalries will continue.

  • This is an excellent point Jacqui, and government cuts can undermine resilience-building in this way.

  • This is an important point Michiel, thank you for raising this here! These factors can be used in education, and the BRaVE project is working on a number of ways to support intercultural education, but you are right that there should be a focus on ensuring that these discussions happen in learning environments

  • Thank you Sandra for your insightful comment. There is definitely important discussions that need to take place about, for instance, the different meanings of resilience and how it is being/can be applied. This is dealt with a little bit in BRaVE's concept paper (available at but also check out the work of Michele Grossman...

  • Thanks Cat!

  • Thanks Charlotte! Sorry we missed that typo and thanks for letting us know. Glad you found the comparison interesting.

  • Thank you Cat, this is a really thoughtful response. This is something we have also found in our research at the BRaVE project - just as polarisation is created from several factors (economic and financial, politics, social support, structural racism etc), so resilience projects such as interfaith work can be a part of responding to several factors. Hopefully...

  • Excellent points Sandra - hopefully I've offered some less European-focussed research in answers elsewhere, such as that being conducted by the GREASE Project (EUI) or the Conflict Transformation Research project (Burghof).

    This course should very much be seen just as a means of an invitation for further critical investigation - there are, for instance,...

  • Thanks for the comments Sandra. There is another project I know of which looks at building resilience in a non-European context. In fact, the term resilience has more often been used outside of the 'Global North', in areas that are struggling with or recovering from conflict or war. Maybe check out the Conflict Transformation Research Project, based at the...

  • This is an excellent point Sandra Macrae and a shortcoming of the course. Our sister project, Project GREASE (also being run at the European University Institute), is looking at some issues around radicalisation and religious governance but from a non-European perspective. I would definitely recommend checking out their work, to add a more global context to...

  • Yes, I know it can be a lot of information DIGITAL B and we had some complicated issues that we struggled to express concisely. Hopefully this course, whilst sometimes overwhelming, can be a good way of highlighting ideas or projects that learners can find out more about outside of the course content. I'm also here to help if you have any questions!

  • It is incredibly difficult, as you both say, to talk about far-right, as the term has a very loose definition and boundaries. There are some cross-overs with the far-right and elements of the debate that has taken place around Brexit but this is, of course, only a small part of a much larger picture. You are right that often such labels are counter-productive,...

  • Thank you for sharing this Rowan Colver, it's a valuable contribution and hopefully this course will help you to add positive anti-extremist and interfaith elements to your work.

  • It's great to have such good engagement and comments - hopefully they are an important resource for everyone, to share experiences and learn from other learners. I hope you are enjoying the course!

  • Thank you Vina Sharma, role playing and drama activities are excellent suggestions for thinking about interfaith, and a good lens for interfaith discussion and cooperation! Maybe the course will be useful in thinking about how to create such activities or add more interfaith elements!

  • Hi Manel Moghrani - of course! Let me know if I can help.

  • Thank you Charlotte Hunter, hopefully this course should give you some ideas for how to respond to this - either in terms of tools you can use or in terms of approaches that have been used in other projects.

  • Thank you Sandra Macrae, I'm glad you enjoyed the video - we have some had some excellent support in putting together the graphics and audio.

    You make a good point that the four different types of interfaith dialogue interact with each other and very interconnected, rather than being exclusive. Different types of interfaith dialogue are often used...

  • Thank you Sandra Macrae! I hope the course lives up to your expectations and you find it interesting and useful.

  • Thank you Ahuche Peter Zaka, we hope you find the course interesting and helpful!

  • Thank you Javier Martínez Mendoza. The course is designed to gradually give you the tools for doing this - from new analysis in the first week to practical skills in the last.

  • Thank you Abraham Adeck, we hope you are enjoying the course!

  • This is a good question! I think, because France has a very strong secular tradition, ideas of secularism are often bound up with nationhood and French identity. So visiting French governmental buildings or places tied to immigration, for instance, would be more likely to be considered dedicated to secularism than they would in other countries, such as the UK.

  • It's lovely to hear about your experiences in Northern Ireland and how the project there worked to build bridges. Thank you for sharing these. Such experiences should also help you in the next part of the course, where we will be asking learning to create an interfaith project!

  • This is an excellent point DIGITAL B - learning about other cultures or religions first online or through media is a good way to start out, to gain some familiarity before meeting people.

  • I'm glad you found the suggestions useful Andrew Simpson. It's a good point that we all come from different positions, with some of us encouraged early to engage in such acts and others not having the same advantages or support to do so.

  • Thanks for your comments on this Helen Moss - it's a very good point that some people do not feel able to do things like interacting with different religions or cultures out of worry or being shy. Taking friends along with you is a great idea!

  • Thank you Garryck Holmes for your excellent contribution. I think you make a particularly important point when you mention asking permission of the preachers and worshippers first - interfaith activities and learning should be done in a way that is respectful in its interaction. It is also very interesting to hear your experiences of living in both diverse and...

  • Thank you for your comment Simon, and we hope you enjoy the course! I definitely agree - tackling the spread of misrepresentations is an important part of developing a response to societal polarisation, especially with regards to the extreme-right. The second part of the course is designed by practitioners to share the tools required to create a response....

  • Thank you for your comments Lucy. We hope that this course will be useful in giving you the tools for thinking about why such violence happens and how to respond to it in your local communities.

  • This is a very important point you raise Cat, thank you. It is very difficult to chose one and, as you say, they all feed into each other. You also highlight some excellent other reasons.

    I encourage everyone taking part in the course to look at your thoughts here, and consider what other factors might be at play in creating violent extremism.

  • Thanks for this comment Licia V. The issues raised by an increasingly globalised world and the events occurring within it will be explored further in Week 2. We look forward to your engagement and participation in the discussion on this!

  • These are very good points you raise metin delevi, and this question will be further explored in future steps. The course is also designed to give you the tools to respond to the 'othering' of different people and communities. We look forward to further discussion with on this!

  • This is a good point Okeshola Damilola Qazeem, and whilst interfaith cannot address all examples of violence, hopefully it does help push towards a peaceful and coexisting society. We hope the course helps to equip you in supporting your local communities against violence and extremism.

  • These are excellent points Helen Moss, thank you for sharing these with us. It is lovely to hear about your experiences, particularly with interfaith, and how you understand these as being made more relevant by global politics. We hope this course will equip you with more tools for further sharing such experiences, should you wish! We look forward to hearing...

  • Thanks for your insightful comments Cat Ashton, your research sounds really interesting and relevant! The team here agree with you, that dialogue needs be encouraged and carried out at local levels as a response to polarisation and violent extremism. Hopefully this course will give you some interesting tools and strategies, and you can also check out other...

  • Thank you Rahul Raaz, for your interesting discussion points. We hope this course will provide you with the tools necessary for using interfaith in your local communities to tackle forms of violent and non-violent extremism. Interfaith can support people of all faiths and none. We look forward to hearing about your journey on the course further!

  • Thank you for your comment Yolanda Piliang. I think you raise some very important points about how issues such as extremism and interfaith are seen and experienced very differently in different parts of the world. You have also raised important questions about the role of social media, such as Facebook, in helping to create certain images of politics and...

  • These are very important questions Tania Reytan-Marincheshka, and the course should definitely help you explore some of them. But hold on to all these questions throughout - the later stages of the course are more practical, so such questions should be useful to help you think about how you can make the difference in Bulgaria and your local communities!

  • Thanks Kwadwo Mintah-Nuamah Kingsford! We really appreciate it and hope you enjoy the course over the next three weeks :)