Canon Sarah Snyder is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Adviser for Reconciliation programmes and resources, working as his Adviser since 2016. From 2014-2016 she was Director of Partnerships at Religions for Peace International, and directed conflict schools for the Cambridge Interfaith Programme at the University of Cambridge from 2011-2015.
When Rose Castle, the 800-year old seat of the bishops of Carlisle, became vacant, Canon Sarah saw in its thick defensive walls an opportunity to invite strangers in, rather than shut them out. To unite enemies rather than to conquer or repel. Rose Castle Foundation was born from this vision and now welcomes strangers from both sides of a divide to live and learn together.
Building on prior experience with Cambridge University’s Interfaith Programme (CIP), Rose Castle Foundation launched its flagship Emerging Peacemakers programme in 2018, partnering with CIP, Al-Azhar University and Lambeth Palace. Together, they convened and trained 45 Muslims and Christians from Egypt, the Gulf, and the UK. One year on, external evaluation showed 93% of participants had built on the relationships developed at the programme across faith differences.
Rose Castle Foundation has since run programmes across the globe, equipping leaders from Nigeria, Pakistan, Oman, Ireland and the USA in reconciliation skills and practices. Now staffed by a fast-growing team, the Foundation is mobilising a global network of alumni equipped to actively transform conflict in their local contexts, working with partners across multiple sectors to reimagine collaborative approaches to reconciliation at all levels of society.
Nestled in the so-called ‘debateable lands’ immediately south of Hadrian’s Wall, Rose Castle has at times been in Scotland and at others in England, transitioning between Catholic and Protestant identities.
In 1066 when William the Conqueror invaded England, the land around Rose Castle was under the claim of the Scottish kings. When the English state built a city, castle, and diocese on this fertile plain a century later, it was a direct challenge to the power of the Scots, who raided the territory for the next 200 years.
Yet throughout generations of conflict and war, Rose Castle has remained a house of prayer, home to the Bishops of Carlisle since the 1200s. Deeply connected to the land in which it sits, Rose Castle embodies the essence of prayerful resilience that inspires what we do.
Working with people of all faiths and none, Rose Castle Foundation is uniquely positioned to model deep to deep encounter, valuing the particular religious and cultural traditions of each participant, whilst modelling what it means to live and work alongside those of another.
A Cambridge University theologian specialising in Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, and a trained mediator, Canon Sarah has worked for many years with communities and senior religious figures around the world to promote faith-based ways of finding peace and rebuilding relationships.
Her early career as a documentary producer for BBC Television included time living and working with the Tuareg nomads and other groups in the Sahara Desert, which sparked her fascination with interfaith engagement. She was inspired by the power of cross-border hospitality - welcoming the stranger - having arrived in northern Mali as a Western Christian, entirely dependent on the welcome and embrace of her nomadic hosts.
This was followed by further work in Peru, Bangladesh and Africa, and with emerging leaders in Israel/Palestine, Mozambique, former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Northern Ireland.
Living in Cumbria with her family, Canon Sarah works with leaders, communities and governments around the world to mobilise a global network of reconcilers who are actively transforming conflict in their own contexts.
Since 2018, Rose Castle Foundation's alumni have been returning to their homes and communities committed to a shared vision of transforming conflict within their own spheres of influence.
Their journey with us might have started on a workshop or a programme, but like any beginning, the programme is just the first step. We work closely with organisational partners and alumni to mobilise and monitor follow-up action to support peer-to-peer communication, further training, and sharing of best practice.
At the heart of Rose Castle Foundation is ‘a culture of welcome that accepts each person as they are, humbly and with respect.’
Modelling deep to deep encounter across difference starts within our team, working as a diverse community that begins each day in shared reflection, drawing out the depths and differences of what each member brings into the space.
This shapes the programmes we run and determines the attitude with which we approach our partnerships, inspiring a global network of leaders that reflect the values we’re committed to living out each day:
Community: built on trust, personal relationships and genuine care where each member grows freely and holistically.
Humility: an openness and curiosity towards brave encounters and learning in equal measure from our weaknesses and strengths.
Risk-taking: a spirit of initiative and innovation that respects differences and invites collaboration.
Integrity: a commitment to practice habits of reconciliation in our own contexts and to model a sustainable approach to the environment.
Reflection: a mindful approach to the rhythms and grounding nature of prayer or daily reflection, which roots us to our distinctive beliefs and values.