Derry charity campaigner Richard Moore says he’s “humbled” to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Ulster.
The Children in Crossfire supremo was presented with his degree, in recognition of his services to reconciliation and chidlren’s rights, at the UU Magee graduation ceremonies at Derry’s Millennium Forum on Tuesday.
Richard says of his achievement: “I think it’s a recognition of the excellent work carried out by everyone involved with Children in Crossfire and the communities we work with in Tanzania, Ethiopia and the Gambia.
“I am also delighted for my family, friends and the local community as, without their support and encouragement throughout my life, I would not have achieved anything.
“It’s a real honour to be acknowledged in this way by the University of Ulster, which is based in my own city and from which I also graduated in 1983.”
Richard Moore was just ten years old and on his way home from school in Derry when he was shot in the face and blinded by a rubber bullet. But he has never used his blindness as an excuse for not getting on with his life.
A man of many talents, Richard had enjoyed success as businessman, writer, musician, recording artist and, radio presenter and, most recently, as the founder and chief executive of the international humanitarian organisation, Children in Crossfire.
When His Holiness the Dalai Lama, also an honorary graduate of the University of Ulster, and who is a patron of Children in Crossfire, visited Derry to mark the 10th anniversary of the charity, he described Richard as his hero and friend, saying; “I preach forgiveness. Richard lives it.”
An inspirational champion of reconciliation and children’s rights, Richard did not succumb to bitterness but used his blindness to look at life differently.
While building up Children in Crossfire, he embarked on a personal odyssey to find out more about the soldier who fired the rubber bullet which blinded him so he could meet him and personally forgive him.
Their meeting and subsequent friendship, and how they travelled to India together last year to meet the Dalai Lama, has been well documented.
Children in Crossfire works in collaboration with local organisations in Ethiopia, Gambia and Tanzania to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable children and to identify sustainable development opportunities.
It has also adopted a strong advocacy role in these countries, lobbying policy-makers, health and educational professionals who are working to create a better future for the local community.
In a recently published book, Richard insisted he was never “obsessed” with the soldier that shot him.
“I didn’t know anything about him,” he said. “It was like a military wall had blinded me... but, when you began to get down beneath that and see a person, a human being, a man, a decision, you start to ask: How is he? How does he feel? Where is he?”
“Never did I feel any resentment towards him. I think there were times in my life when I wondered if he understood the hurt that he caused - particularly when I found out his name and began to find out more about him.”
Richard adds: “It helped to know him, but I didn’t have to know him.
“I forgave Charles [Innes] long before I ever knew his name and I think that’s very important. I think one of the big things about forgiveness that can often be overlooked is that it’s not about the person you’re forgiving - it’s about yourself.”
Richard also revealed what happened at his first ever meeting with the soldier: “I said to him... I’m not here to make you accountable to me; I’m here to let you know that I forgive you.”