Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Peace Walls

Yesterday I went to Belfast. And found huge walls/fences separating the city. They are called "Peace Walls".

The community divides into Protestant/Catholic, Loyalist/Republican, Rangers/Celtic, Sinn Fein/DUP. These ancient divisions are traced to economic, religious and political roots – and are loosely referred to as “the troubles”.

Somewhere in the dim and distant past, people of Celtic and Roman religious roots had to live on the same land. People who owed loyalty to Great Britain, and people who wanted independence had to live side by side. And people who were indigenous to the land and people who were brought in from Scotland had to live side by side. And people who were traders and people who were workers had to live side by side. And they all slowly coalesced into two competing groups of people. And for generations the only way they have lived together was in conflict. Northern Ireland divided their communities, and their religious observances, and their political perspectives, and their football teams.

And then the glimmerings of a miracle: the elected leaders of these groupings have shaken hands and taken up seats side by side in governing Northern Ireland. But this is only the beginning. Because there is so much work to be done on the ground. There are “Peace Walls” separating people from one another. What an abuse of the English language! The lesson of South Africa’s history is that walls never bring peace. Walls keep people apart. And at some point the walls need to come down and people will have to find each other as neighbours.

So pray that these security separations may come down, and that spaces between people may be filled with peace.

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