February 19, 2014
It was a roller coaster of emotions on Sunday ... from the Olympic hockey game we went right into watching the movie Bloody Sunday in preparation for our trip on Monday to Derry/Londonderry. The movie is a raw and factual account of the events of January 30, 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, when 13 innocent civilians were murdered by British soldiers during a civil rights march to protest internment – imprisonment without trial or evidence.
Some of us had seen the movie before – but it was an entirely different situation watching it with Yvonne, who is from Derry, and one of our volunteers, Conor, a young man from the north of Ireland who says he grew up in a non-sectarian household, and feels that he has not absorbed the hatred towards “the other side” through his schooling and upbringing. However, he admits that when he sees movies like Bloody Sunday, it stirs up his anger towards those that perpetuated the atrocity. Even Yvonne, who has seen the movie several times, and has lived and breathed the work of Corrymeela for decades, was visibly upset at the end of the movie. It was hard for all of us to sit in the pain and helplessness of it all, over 40 years after the fact.
Our trip to Derry began with meeting Jon McCourt, a peace builder for over 30 years, on the walls of Derry for a tour and a bit of history. He was engaging and had many stories to tell as we walked around the walls. He then took the group down to the Bogside to recount the horrors of that day ... which he witnessed first hand. I was not able to accompany the rest of group on that part of the walk, but all said it was very powerful. Jon had pictures of that day, and had folks stand on the very spots where some were killed as he talked about them, many of them folks he knew.
We then heard from Maureen Hetherington from The Junction, a brand new building that holds the offices of a number of smaller community organizations. Maureen’s work involves working with people to help them tell their stories in a way that leads to healing. It was one of her statements that will stay with me for awhile – she said she wasn’t sure if reconciliation was ever really possible, which is why she didn’t like to use the word. She preferred the word “healing’, or even “moving forward”, to indicate that perhaps some people might never be reconciled to perpetrators, or violent events of their past, but they at least might be able to live with their memories and experiences without pain and dysfunction.
Our shared reflection that night was very deep and powerful, made possible by our volunteer Anni who led us through an art activity that helped us name and talk about our feelings from the day.
In four days, I am amazed at the transformation of this group. Their body language is different, more open, more relaxed, more inviting of others. In our closing circle Monday night at Corrymeela, many gratitudes were offered to Yvonne and the volunteers for creating and holding the space to learn and go deeper within ourselves. The hospitality that oozes out of every nook and cranny at Corrymeela reaps many benefits, including the ability to receive new information, challenge one’s own assumptions and long held beliefs, and radiate hospitality oneself. We all felt blessed by each other, and the experience of the last few days.
Below is a picture of the group with Jon McCourt on the walls of Derry