First with climbing Slieve Donard and just this past week with climbing Slieve League in the
Trying to comprehend my experiences in
To help myself organize this blogpost – which also helps you the reader to process it along with me – I will organize it around three topics/ questions: 1) The Troubles – what are the aftershocks still present in Northern Ireland? 2) What does peace and reconciliation really mean? 3) What is the future for
Please keep in mind that these reflections are simply those of a volunteer who has been here 2 months. (I will likely revisit the topics several times throughout the year to see how my opinions change.) During those intense two months though, I diligently kept my eyes and ears open throughout my daily life. No outside research was done; it was just learning through being in this society.
The Troubles: A Vocal Minority and a Silenced Majority
This pattern of the troubles continues through this day. After 30-odd years of open hostilities, the various political parties (Sinn Fein, Progressive Unionist Party particularly) have committed to promoting peace. So at a macro-level, the peace process is at the best stage in many years. Yet while the official position is for peace, certain members do not wish it to be so. While most of the society yearns for peace, the vocal minority is not ready to let peace happen and are making their voices heard through continued bomb threats and rioting . The basic political loyalties of
In addition to the political sides of the conflict, the police force was and is often viewed by the multiple sides as the enemy – whether as an occupying force or simply distrusted in their allegiances. (The NI police do not have so great a track record of human rights towards citizens.) While they have been renamed the PSNI (Police Services of
Of all the Northern Irish people that I have interacted with, they have all expressed the desire to see peace in the nation. (But just what that peace might look like is to be decided - see the future of N.I.) I have heard people argue that today’s troubles are caused by ignorant youth who just didn’t know better. But why don’t they know better?
Education in Northern is segregated. A recent NI public official stated as such and has received an extreme amount of flack for it. But he was correct. Only a small minority of schools are actually cross-community. (Less than 10%.) Many children are growing up in schools and neighborhoods with people of the same identity as themselves. And these people of different identities are simply enemies without a face, and these assumptions are reinforced by their parents who have grown up only knowing the same thing.
And many people I have talked to – who are educated, wonderful people – harbor these same prejudices against other N.I. residents who are different than them, whether they like to admit it or not. These prejudices have been forced upon them by the history of this society. The majority of Northern Ireland Protestants would shudder if you told them that they were “Irish.” They would say first, and foremost, that they are British. (To put it in different terms: in 1783, say that the loyalist state of
So how does one even begin to reconcile the various sides of this conflict? There have been countless bomb threats and bombs planted throughout
From my observations and hearing various opinions on it, it seems that
The 30 years of the Troubles are over, but
We are standing at the top of the mountain. There has been a lot that has been learned and struggled with, and the view that presents itself is rather hazy. It makes sense, but at the same time, many questions are clouding up our vision. But that is part of the experience of
Until then, I pray for peace and reconciliation, not only for the people of
“I am who I am because of who we all are.”
In peace and grace.