This obituary was written by Leela Channer
My grandmother Kirstin Channer, who has died aged 92, spent her life working for reconciliation and forgiveness around the world.
Kirstin was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, to Hilmar Rasmussen, an interior decorator, and Christine (nee Hansen), and joined her elder brother Frede in the Danish resistance against the occupying Nazis when she was 12 years old. Frede entrusted Kirstin with delivering secret papers, and she managed to avoid being searched as she looked too young.
As the second world war went on, Kirstin would wave at British planes flying overhead. “One day, I want to marry one of those heroes,” she later recalled thinking. It was a wish fulfilled when in 1956 she married David Channer, a photographer and film-maker who during the war had been a commissioned officer in the Royal Engineers, but by the 1950s was working with Moral Re-Armament (MRA, now Initiatives of Change).
In 1947, Kirstin travelled by train to Switzerland, through Germany. The scenes shocked her. “During the war,” she remembered, “Danes often wished for the Germans to be bombed. When we saw women and children living among ruins, we were horrified.” Arriving at the Caux Palace hotel, a newly opened centre for reconciliation in postwar Europe and a conference centre for MRA, Kirstin was asked if she would share a room with a German. Her room-mate would become a lifelong friend and Kirstin would end up travelling the world as a full-time MRA volunteer.
After volunteering in Germany, the US, South America and India, Kirstin moved to London in 1970 with David and their son, Alan, and hosted an MRA residence in Wandsworth as a centre for guests and volunteers. Over the next 50 years, Kirstin opened her home to people from all the nations of the world – from Laos and Zimbabwe to Nagaland and Samiland.
There, she nurtured a space where leaders from all faiths could come together, notably Ajahn Chah, an eminent teacher of Theravada Buddhism; Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah; and Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye from Nigeria, former militia leaders who became reconcilers and were nominated twice for the Nobel peace prize.
David and Kirstin were invited to Burma in 1958 by the prime minister U Nu. They were often guests in the home of Daw Khin Kyi, the mother of Aung San Suu Kyi and widow of Aung San, who led the struggle for Burmese independence from Britain. In India, they worked closely with the social activist Rajmohan Gandhi. They were regular visitors to the offices of Rajmohan’s father, Devadas Gandhi, a newspaper editor and son of Mahatma Gandhi.
David died in 2006. She is survived by Alan and two granddaughters.
This article first appeared on The Guardian website
Link accessed 29 December 2022 <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/dec/21/kirstin-channer-obituary&…;