[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/18/art.evans2.ypwr.jpg
caption=”Michael Evans, 25, started Full Court Peace in Northern Ireland.”]
I report almost every day on long-standing conflicts around the world. Sometimes the world’s best treaty negotiators or international players can’t rectify these deep-rooted battles. Michael Evans made it clear he held none of those positions when I met him a few weeks ago, but he said he had a similar goal.
Michael started playing professional basketball in Belfast after being a star player in college. “I took the offer without even thinking about the situation there. I assumed everything was over,” the 25-year-old says of his move to Northern Ireland. Of course, the cultural and religious divide between the Protestants and Catholics was far from over. Most sports were highly segregated, but not basketball because it wasn’t as popular.
Michael started Full Court Peace after coaching kids from both sides of the conflict and surreptitiously bringing them together. “I knew basketball was a neutral sport. I knew if I walked in with a cricket bat, or a football my plan wouldn’t work,” Michael says. Indeed it worked, bringing kids together on the court whose families hated each other everywhere else. The group’s mission is now to use team basketball to cultivate and inspire enduring friendships between teenagers from rivaling communities in war-torn regions of the world.
Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview