Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Meeting is first step on important journey

Editor's Viewpoint

It is a little sad that a meeting between two different cultural groups is still so newsworthy some 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but nevertheless it was a highly commendable initiative.

Members of Bredagh GAA club and others from the local Orange Order met at Ballynafeigh Orange Hall and they made history by doing so.

The get-together was organised by Stephen Biggerstaff from the Ballynafeigh Cultural and Heritage Centre and Malcolm McFarlane, the chair of Bredagh GAC.

This was an example to all of us to get out of our comfort zones and try to find out what else is going on in the world.

This is not something that is, or should be, confined to people of a particular background.

The so-called middle classes need to take up this challenge and to reach out, as well as people less well off.

It should not be a "class" thing but something that should be practised by everyone.

However, we can't be naïve about this. In a place like Northern Ireland, where people have been segregated for so long, things will not change overnight.

Our familiar loyalties may still have priority, but this can be changed, however slowly, and it is taking place in various parts of our wider communities.

Change requires vision and effort, as well as the strong will to reach out, and that is what the Orangemen and the Gaelic club members did on Saturday.

Such initiatives must not be taken for granted, and it was moving to hear the Gaelic club member say that he had passed Ballynafeigh Orange Hall for many years, and wondered what it was like.

To be invited inside the building was a great day for him, and no doubt a great day also for those who invited him in.

Such exchanges cannot be over-estimated, and only by consciously setting out to engage with others can we make truly educational contacts.

In this way we can strip away the myth and folklore, and begin to meet the real person behind the image.

We will no doubt find out that we have much in common.

Once you have shared tea with other people, it is harder to retreat back into the old ghettoes, and the half-baked wrong assumptions.

Those people who met each other in Ballynafeigh on Saturday took the first steps on an important journey. We should do likewise.

Belfast Telegraph

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