Honour those who make a difference on World Peace Day
Bermuda’s “exemplars of peace” are to be honoured by community group Imagine Bermuda as the world marks the United Nations International Day of Peace today.
Among them is Lance Furbert, retired musician and Bermuda’s former curator of forts.
Glenn Fubler, founder of the group, said Mr Furbert had “transformed” his life to “positively influence some of those on the margins of society in the spirit of affirming the inherent dignity of all”.
He highlighted Mr Furbert’s life-changing experience as a close friend of Erskine “Buck” Burrows who was convicted of murdering police commissioner George Duckett in 1972.
Burrows was also convicted of the 1973 murders of Sir Richard Sharples, the Governor, and Captain Hugh Sayers, his 25-year-old aide-de-camp. Burrows was hanged in 1977 along with Larry Tacklyn against a background of simmering racial unrest, which boiled over into riots that convulsed the island after the two were executed.
Burrows’s religious conversion shortly before his execution guided Mr Furbert into his own Christian transformation.
Mr Furbert later spent years working with prisoners through the Prison Fellowship programme. A delegation is planned to call on Westgate prison at noon as part of today’s event.
Mr Furbert said he had visited a mutual friend at the old Casemates prison in Dockyard where Burrows was held.
He asked after Burrows, and was told that “Buck was now a Christian”.
He said: “That threw me for a loop, that he had gotten saved”.
Mr Furbert passed on his regards to Burrows and later encountered the friend he had visited in jail, who had been released shortly before the riots of 1977, at a rally in Bernard Park.
Mr Furbert said: “He told me Buck was at peace and not worried about the fact that he was going to die.
He said, at this stage, Buck would be more concerned about me and my salvation. That really struck me. “We had reached a point where something had to happen and Buck was one of the people who had made it happen.”
Today’s commemoration also marks the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mr Furbert said: “Glenn fascinates me in that he sees the good in people where nobody else can.”
He explained a similar impulse motivated him to begin to pray with prison inmates just after the riots, when his Christian conversion “totally changed my life”.
He added the Prison Fellowship was also about changing lives. Mr Furbert said: “I think of my own experience, and Buck’s as well. I was on a very destructive path — not in a bad way. I just didn’t care about anything.
“It was a carefree life; the only thing I cared about was my son, Lance. But you can’t possibly be the same person after accepting the Lord, Jesus Christ. I was totally amazed.”
After he worked with inmates in the early 1980s, Mr Furbert resumed fellowship two years ago with Edward “Icewater” Smith, meeting and praying with prisoners on remand and in maximum security.
Mr Furbert said his reputation as someone who had once led a troubled life, as well as his association with Burrows, had helped him in his prison work.
Mr Furbert said: “Many of these guys identify with Buck, and so I can tell them about the change in his life and how that affected me. It’s a successful programme. Not everybody comes to it, but some of them I am really proud of.”
Mr Furbert added his experience has shown him that many young men “would have been nice kids, but they got caught up in the gang culture”.
He said: “For a kid brought up in that environment, the gang becomes his family, and he feels obligated to retaliate.”
Mr Furbert said he felt for prisoners who “haven’t had the guidance, just acting on impulse, and then one day can wreck your whole life”, adding: “Around their mates, they put on a big show. But when you talk to them individually, they’re like lost puppies.”
He said when there was “mutual recognition of the inherent dignity of all involved, peace prevails”, adding: “In affirming the importance of recognising the inherent dignity of all, a community delegation will be visiting Westgate on Peace Day to join with some of the inmates, as a reminder to ourselves and all involved of that principle.”