Belfast Telegraph

Improvements in community relations is welcome news, but it's up to each of us to play our part in peace-building

Editor's Viewpoint

The timing was unfortunate. Just 24 hours after four Catholic families were intimidated out of their homes in east Belfast by loyalist paramilitaries, a survey shows that more than half the people in Northern Ireland believe community relations have improved in the past five years.

That is not to decry the findings of the NI Good Relations Indicators survey, but rather to point out that the transition from a society in conflict to one where people of opposing traditions feel at ease with each other is a work in progress.

The survey indeed makes the point that public confidence in improving community relations has ebbed and flowed in the last two decades depending on what was happening here - for example, tensions rose over issues like flag protests and then faded away again.

While no-one can deny there is a sectarian underbelly in this society, there are still hopeful signs as the often unheralded work of reconciliation and confidence-building goes ahead.

Of particular note, is the fact that 58% of schools have engaged in shared education projects in the past year, a vital step in breaking down the educational apartheid which prevented young people mixing during their formative years.

It was also heartening to read that three-quarters of those questioned feel that both Protestant and Catholic cultures add richness and diversity to society. This might seem like a self-evident truth but given the constant clashes over cultural expression it is a welcome recognition of each other's identity and touchstones.

Progress toward a shared future may seem glacially slow but it can be given greater momentum if each of us decided to get along with a cross-community neighbour and not just leave the peace-building to statutory authorities or community o rganisations.

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