Final preparations have begun for a major peace event that will see an eternal flame lit by children from both traditions in Londonderry — one of only 15 such flames across the globe.
The Bright, Brand New Day programme is the brainchild of Presbyterian minister David Latimer who has managed to secure Martin Luther King jnr as a keynote speaker.
The seed for the flame was first sown when Rev Latimer was with the British troops in Afghanistan, where he was deeply affected by the horrors of war.
A number of events have been held since the event was launched last November and the culmination of the lighting of the flame this weekend is expected to bring huge crowds into the city centre.
Ahead of the appearance by Martin Luther King III, a concert will be staged in the Guildhall Square where among the performers will be Best Boy Grip, The Priests, Codetta Choir, the Ulster Scots Pipes and Drums and Phil Coulter. Young people are at the heart of the initiative and during the past six months every school in Derry has been involved in constructing ‘peace pledges' which have since been engraved onto blocks.
These will form the pathway to the Peace Monument where the eternal flame, in the presence of Martin Luther King III, will be lit by Catholic and Protestant children as a symbol of hope for the future.
Rev Latimer explained: “This is a bespoke peace building programme for Derry/Londonderry and we have received the backing from the First and Deputy First Minister, but feedback from others that have seen it encourages us to believe it will be adopted in other places, perhaps throughout the world where there is conflict.
“Derry is quite different to the rest of Northern Ireland. Even during the darkest days there was, according to the city’s Poet Laureate (Seamus Hean-ey), ‘always something tonic about the people of this city’.
“This has led us toward next Sunday when we will gather at Ebrington Square for the unveiling of the World Peace Flame.
“Under the auspices of The World Peace Flame Foundation, the eternal flame will make its way from The Hague to Derry/Londonderry.
“The flame is a symbol, a powerful beacon that can inspire thousands to turn their dreams of peace into action.
“The time is now for our city and all its people to embark on a great journey — that will be but a step — an opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves and the world that a new mould and a new life can be shaped.
“While it takes courage to let go of old divisions and faith to walk down a new road, the time has come to start living in a way that doesn’t wreck things for the next generation.”
Perhaps the most recognised peace builder of any generation is Martin Luther King, who made his famous I Have a Dream speech in 1963, so it is fitting that his son has agreed to come to Derry for this prestigious peace making event.
Mr King made a special request to meet with Nobel Laureate John Hume who was also the recipient of a Martin Luther King Peace Award in 1999.
Dr Latimer said: “To secure a man of such international renown, at a time when people are beginning to lose faith in the political process, is extremely fortuitous.
“If anyone can be used to re-energise a fragile peace process and empower a city and its people to believe that a new life can be shaped, it is Martin Luther King III.”