Brother of murdered aid worker David Haines takes message of unity into schools

Mike Haines founded Global Acts of Unity following the murder of his brother by Islamic State in 2014.
Mike Haines founded Global Acts of Unity following the murder of his brother by Islamic State in 2014.

The brother of a Yorkshire-born aid worker who was taken hostage and murdered by members of so-called Islamic State relives the pain of his family’s loss every time he steps out to speak in front of teenagers up and down the country.

But Mike Haines, whose brother David was killed in 2014, says this is where he finds hope that young people can be steered away from radicalisation.

His travels often bring him to Yorkshire, a place he calls a second home to due his family’s connections – David was born in Beverley, their father hails from Sowerby Bridge and their grandparents live in Ripon.

“David was taken for whatever reason, but the silver lining to the cloud of my brother’s murder has been the students. Even though it’s incredibly hard at times just reliving the story over and over again, it is far, far outweighed by their response," he said.

“I have a real trust in our youth that they’re not going to make the mistakes older generations have.”

The day after footage emerged of David being beheaded, Mike spoke the BBC to urge others against any reprisal action.

An invitation to speak at an event in Birmingham led to a talk at a school, and from this grew Global Acts of Unity – a campaign promoting unity, tolerance and understanding in schools which has seen 51-year-old Mike talk to 38,000 teenagers across the UK.

Family, particularly the bond with his brother, is a key part of the Mike’s presentations.

“I’m showing slides of when David and I were kids, taking them through the story up to the point of his murder,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotion in the room, there’s always students and teachers affected.

“It’s not so much about the presentations. It’s the discussions they have afterwards, that ripple effect. The questions I get sometimes are incredibly challenging. It can range from simple questions like did we get my brother’s body back to what I would say to the people who murdered my brother.”

The man who killed David later died in a drone strike, but Mike would have preferred to see him brought to justice as he would all those carrying out “crimes against society”.

“David went out [to Syria] knowing what he was getting into,” he said.

“The thousands of people who don’t have a choice – the victims of Westminster, Borough Market and Manchester – it’s for those innocent people that I want to see them face justice.”