How to give it: Mark Rylance

Actor, director and playwright Mark Rylance, 51, is appearing in ‘Jerusalem’ on Broadway. He is a patron of Peace Direct, which funds peacemakers in war zones. On May 16 in New York he will be performing a one-off, one-man show portraying the true story of Henri Ladyi, Congolese rescuer of child soldiers – see

What is the first charity you can remember supporting?

In my early twenties I stood wrapped in barbed wire on Balham High Street to raise money for Amnesty International. I wanted to draw attention to those incarcerated and tortured for no crime.

Which cause do you feel most passionately about?

Survival International, the movement for tribal peoples. ( passion came from reading about the 70m indigenous people living in America prior to the European conquest. I wondered why people like my hero, the [19th-century] poet Walt Whitman, didn’t write about that genocide, then realised that I was doing nothing to help the 150m tribal people today living with no government representation. So I started to work with Survival International.

Why do you support Peace Direct?

I was introduced to Dr Scilla Elworthy, who works on peaceful resolution of conflict, and who co-founded Peace Direct. It was the beginning of the Iraq war, when I was angry about my tax money being used to kill civilians. Ninety per cent of the victims of modern warfare are civilians, as opposed to 10 per cent at the beginning of the 20th century. Peace Direct was formed to do something about this. Their ideas of getting directly involved with local peacemakers, and lobbying governments to solve conflicts peacefully are brilliant conceptions, which is why I’m doing this performance in New York.

Why do you give to charity?

Partly from studying tribal people, I feel that I’m part of the whole of existence; not just human, but plant, animal – the whole thing. It seems to me that less fortunate people feel the need to abuse and suppress others. They are more likely to live out their lives from a place of pain and anger and hatred. Those of us who are more fortunate need to practise acts of kindness and connection to balance that out.

Should we leave all our money to charity when we die?

In his excellent book The Gospel of Wealth, Andrew Carnegie outlines what to do with excess money when you’re approaching death. He gave almost all of his colossal fortune away and provided modestly for his family, which I think is right.

Is charity a necessary companion to capitalism?

I think charity is eternal, but capitalism’s day is done. I think the replacement will be more local, not so easily dominated by corporate influence and obsessed with consumerism. We’ve got to clear away Christianity and the whole idea of dominating nature, and be more collaborative.

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