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Healing society’s many grievous wounds requires memory and imagination

Fr Martin Magill


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'I was fascinated by these lyrics, because they recalled the words of the keynote speaker, the internationally acclaimed writer and academic John Paul Lederach, who said on the first night of the festival: "Social healing is to be found between memory and imagination."'

'I was fascinated by these lyrics, because they recalled the words of the keynote speaker, the internationally acclaimed writer and academic John Paul Lederach, who said on the first night of the festival: "Social healing is to be found between memory and imagination."'

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'I was fascinated by these lyrics, because they recalled the words of the keynote speaker, the internationally acclaimed writer and academic John Paul Lederach, who said on the first night of the festival: "Social healing is to be found between memory and imagination."'

The ninth annual 4 Corners Festival (4cornersfestival.com) ended on Sunday evening past with an event that prayed for the breath of God's imagination to inspire those who took part as they went their separate ways.

Earlier that day, BBC Radio Ulster broadcast Morning Service, which had been recorded during the week.

It included these words of a song written by the Dublin-based singer-songwriter Ronan Johnston, called Breathe, to fit with the theme of this year's festival:

Breathe, Breath of God, Breath of God, Breathe over this city

Over our lives

Over our imagination

Breathe into our memory

Into our history

our mystery

I was fascinated by these lyrics, because they recalled the words of the keynote speaker, the internationally acclaimed writer and academic John Paul Lederach, who said on the first night of the festival: "Social healing is to be found between memory and imagination."

Johnston and Lederach had not spoken, they didn't know each other and yet they both referred to memory and to imagination.

As a society, we've spent a lot of time and effort on memory, but very little on imagination.

In terms of memory, it is clear from recent events that memories of our past are still unhealed and we need to find ways to deal with them therapeutically without re-traumatising.

I believe the Churches have an important role to play in this, and we get some idea of how they might do in the likes of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's initiative which led to the publication of Considering Grace, a book which explored how Presbyterians responded to the Troubles.

In last year's festival, a number of stories from it were read to a capacity audience in St John's Parish Hall in west Belfast.

It was very poignant to listen to those stories of suffering in a safe place and in an appropriate context.

I turn now to the other word which both Lederach and Johnston used: imagination.

While we have done some work in the area of memory, in my opinion we have done very little when it comes to imagination.

I believe we all have been given different creative gifts by God.

I reject the statement, "I'm not creative."

The challenge for all of us is to flex the muscles of our imagination to co-create this place so as to be an example to our broken world of a new and reconciled society.

In his interview, John Paul Lederach said some people in his own country, the US, were keen to learn from our peace process here.

With that in mind, in this column I want to encourage all of us to use our imaginations to resolve some of our local issues, be they poverty or paramilitiarism, sectarianism or racism.

Of course, these are massive issues, but with enough people taking small steps, we can really make a huge difference.

With that in mind, look out for an initiative from the Corrymeela Community called #Courage Pentecost, which will be launched on Tuesday, March 16.

This will provide suggestions on a daily basis for 50 days which will inspire and challenge all those who take part.

I will write about it here after the launch.

In one of her specially written poems for this year's festival, poet and writer Raquel McKee shared these words:

Open the curtains and let in the light

Cross the peace walls and see things anew

Stream in the festival and turn down the night

Examine our thoughts and renew

Mortar resilience into every foundation

Brick upon brick let it rise

Til hope is opaque and substantial and strong.

Fr Martin Magill is parish priest of St John's, Belfast

Apt Bible readings

Some Scripture suggestions for the week ahead:

Monday Acts 2:17

Tuesday: Jeremiah 29:7

Wednesday: Genesis 2:7

Thursday: Acts 1:8

Friday: Matthew 14:27

Belfast Telegraph


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