Apostolates · Experiments · Jesuit life · Reflection

The Long Experiment: Peacekeeping Talks

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam: For the Greater Glory of God

On my final weekend in Ireland, I had the pleasure of taking part in a ‘peace dialogue’ organized by Brian Lennon SJ. Brian is based in Armagh and came down to Dublin with a group of people from the Ulster unionist and loyalist communities, with whom he works in the North of Ireland. We met at a community centre in Ballymun, a working-class area of North Dublin, where local people, including Sinn Fein party members as well as a mixture of charity workers (lay and religious) welcomed their visitors.

Ballymun Centre
The Ballymunn community centre which hosted the talks

After a cup of tea we all introduced ourselves briefly, our names, background and why we were there. Then we broke out into small discussion groups and were asked to share openly on two questions: ‘what is important to me?’ and ‘where does that come from’?

 

From two seemingly small questions, deep, personal and passionate conversations flowed. What struck me first was how, despite pronounced divides in terms of perceived nationality and, to a lesser extent, religion, people from different communities found much common ground over the basic problems they shared. Both loyalists and republicans saw unemployment, housing and mental health as huge issues that affected their local areas. Both expressed their feeling of being increasingly marginalized by the individualist culture and capitalist economic systems that exist both North and South of the border. Amidst the sharing of such painful issues something powerful happened – a realization grew of each other’s fragile humanity and of having much more in common with each other than differences.

 

This meeting showed me the power of creating a space where people can break down barriers by listening carefully and respectfully to each other. I felt invigorated at hearing their real issues, placing a ‘finger on the pulse’ of people’s reality in our world today. In seeing how hope and unity were possible in certain areas, my desire to build community and strive for justice and equality was deepened by this meeting. I found it inspiring to see Jesuits such as Brian Lennon stepping across divides to enable people to come together by facilitating this meeting. I admired the relevance of his work, a ministry of reconciliation in the modern age. This meeting was another highlight of my time here in Ireland and whets the appetite for the possibility of working across borders and boundaries in our countries, perhaps all the more needed in the tense political times of our day.

Laus Deo Semper: Praise God Always

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One thought on “The Long Experiment: Peacekeeping Talks

  1. What a joy and an inspiration to read Christopher’s messages – I am sure that he will make a great Jesuit. May God bless you all.

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