Saturday, 2 March 2013

Stroke City

Day 5
          Tuesday morning at 10 am we were on the bus to Derry ... a trip of about one hour and fifteen minutes.  I got used to calling the city “Derry” because that’s mostly how it’s referred to at Corrymeela, but of course it’s also known as Londonderry ... depending on whether one is loyalist, or nationalist. Our guide at the Peace and Reconciliation Group said some call it “stroke” city, because officially it’s Derry/Londonderry, or even L/Derry.
          Although she couldn’t be with us for the trip, Yvonne from Corrymeela had set up meetings with folks at the Peace and Reconciliation Group. Even though we arrived a bit earlier than our scheduled visit, we were welcomed in by Michael Doherty, Director, and before too long given coffee, and tea and snacks.
          Michael told us the story of the organization, born out of a women’s peace organization in Belfast in 1976. Quoting from some of their materials, The Peace and Reconcilation Group (PRG) was established “to address practical ways to work toards understanding and reconciliation in the context of the conflict of Northern Ireland. Throughout its history it has used a variety of diverse programmes to allow people to build bridges among communities that have been polarised by the historical and political events that have occurred in Northern Ireland.”
          Michael spoke passionately and candidly about the work in which he has been involved for many years. He said that he disagreed with folks who state that Northern Ireland is in a “post conflict situation”, and that in fact “we are in a conflict that has been transformed, and is more subtle.” The PRG’s work involves projects and programmes aimed at young people, children and families, and ex-combatants. It is also a leading training organization in the North West region of Northern Ireland in the areas of mediation and peace building.
          Our group was impressed with Michael’s ability to present several points of view, while still being clear about stating his own biases and feelings. He was a wonderfully engaging speaker, and afterwards took us on a walking tour of the walls of Derry, pointing of places of interest, the murals of the Bogside (site of the Bloody Sunday massacre), and historical facts along the way.
          After our walking tour, Yvonne had arranged for us to meet with Maureen Hetherington, Director of The Junction, a community relations resource and peace building centre also located in Derry/Londerry ( Maureen explained that for many years people working in the area of peaace building didn't know what the other was doing. The Junction creates opportunities for folks to see each other as practitioners who could help each other, and could "re-humanize" a perceived enemy. People can get take part in an accredited training program around storytelling and forgiveness which leads to understanding and healing.
          Maureen also talked specifically about the Ethical and Shared Remembering Project, which is about the societal story we tell ourselves about our past. Using the decade 1912-1922 as a prism, the project helps folks explore significant events in their entirety and begin to understand the complexities of the past, learn from the mistakes and make choices for a better future. Maureen has done work in both the U.S. and Canada, and was interested in conversations and connections about work being done within and among aboriginal communities in North America.
          It was a very full day, and there was quiet on the bus during the return to Corrymeela – much processing and  reflection about the dedication and hard work of those who work at peace building in these times. Below are pictures from Sam's camera: a picture of the Bogside, with the dove peace mural; a picture of Michael on our tour, a picture of Emma, Alana, Caitlyn, and Michael, and a picture of the group with Steph and Matthew just before the Peace Bridge.

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