Keeping the faith in a pandemic
The annual Good Relations Week began on Monday past and ends this Monday coming, which is International Day of Peace. There is a dedicated website (www.goodrelationsweek.com) containing, as it says, "a virtual showcase of over 150 online events and digital content that celebrates 30 years of peace-building and cultural diversity."
I believe Good Relations Week and International Day of Peace is a good time to consider our commitment to peace and reconciliation.
"Peace Day", as Monday coming is also known, is an ideal day, especially for us here with our recent violent past, to consider the importance of peace-making and politics and their contribution to the new road on which we have embarked.
Indeed, our story of journeying from violence fits well with the theme of this year's Peace Day: "Shaping peace together". We here have something to share about peace-making to a global audience.
On International Day of Peace, it makes sense that we take the opportunity to celebrate the work of peace-making.
In thinking about our past here and recalling the immense suffering that was caused during the Troubles, it is important to acknowledge the sometimes forgotten role of Church leaders, supported by their congregations. Indeed, there are stories still needing to be told.
I would encourage retired clergy, who have contributed to peace-making, to follow the example of Rev Ken Newell and write their stories for the benefit of us all.
With regards to this year's Peace Day event in Belfast, this will be online, as it was not possible to organise an event bringing people together physically in the one place.
I would encourage readers of this column to consider signing up to be part of it; the link to register can be found at: https://ndevents.co.uk/belfastdayofpeaceevent/.
This column gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to the good relations unit of Belfast City Council for the time and effort they have devoted to ensure the event will be an appropriate one for the city and beyond.
The event will have contributions from the 4 Corners Festival and from the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum and will be chaired by former chairperson of the Community Relations Council, Peter Osborne.
During the week, I took part in a rehearsal for Monday's online event with others who are also contributing.
A number of the participants will read poems, including St Mary's Grammar School student Joe Hinchcliffe and Rev Cheryl Meban, who has written a very poignant poem for the day itself.
Malaina Yoder and Jim Deeds from the 4 Corners Festival, a cross-community Christian arts festival promoting reconciliation and healing (www.4cornersfestival.com), will also be taking part.
The Belfast City Council event for this year's International Day of Peace will begin with a message from the Lord Mayor, Alderman Frank McCoubrey, and will include contributions from other religions and from Norman Richardson, a key member of the inter-faith forum.
As our society continues to change, it is important we find ways of getting to know and relate well to people from different religions.
The purpose of the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum, which was established in the early 1990s, is to provide opportunities for members of different faith communities to get to know one another and explore issues together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Its members come from the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha'i, humanist and other faith and belief groups, as well as various Christian traditions.
In conclusion, at the moment, I'm exploring the contribution of Rev Ray Davey, the founder of Corrymeela, to reconciliation here. Davey used to say: "If we Christians cannot speak the message of reconciliation, we have nothing to say."
Apt Bible readings
Some Scripture suggestions for the week ahead:
Monday - John 14:27
Tuesday - John 16:33
Wednesday - 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Thursday - Colossians 3:15
Friday - Galatians 5:22
Fr Martin Magill is parish priest of St John's, Belfast