March 2013

 

Doctrine divides, Action unites

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Ripples for Peace in Northern Ireland

Rachel Dyne


In February 2013, I had the pleasure of taking a group of young people from England to Northern Ireland to see the work that YMCA Ireland is doing for peace and reconciliation with young people affected by the Troubles.

The conflict in Northern Ireland has been going on since the 1970s and is a conflict on many different levels—political, religious and in different communities. The worst of it is now over thanks to the peace process at a political level, but there are still violent clashes between the two groups of people, and there had been a couple of peaceful protests that had turned violent leading up to our trip.

During our visit, we learned that the YMCA is delivering many programs with young people to address the ongoing conflict between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. We were privileged to meet young people that had been transformed through these programs. One program—Reconciliation and Peace Peers, or RAPP—is about young people, often from some of the areas affected most by the Troubles, who are engaging and communicating with each other to overcome some of the prejudices in their community. One young person that had been part of this program said that she had come to realize how similar her newfound friends were to her after a lifetime of thinking that they were “evil” and “hateful people.” These thoughts have become part of everyday life in Northern Ireland, especially Belfast, and these perceptions are what the YMCA is trying to change.

Another program, Friends 4 Life, takes young people from both communities in Northern Ireland to America to help communities there. Through this process, the young people engage with each other to bring about change in the community they are working in and transform themselves and their views of “the other.” One young person said she had learned not to prejudge other people based on their religious background.

The visit to Northern Ireland was an incredible trip with a lot gained from it. I have been carrying around a lot of questions since coming back from the School of Peace (SOP) about a country which is part of my family. Since returning from the trip, I have had many of these questions answered: there is work being done to move the country toward peace. Northern Ireland has a future, and it has a chance at peace for all. I believe these are small drops in a large pond, but eventually, these small drops will send ripples out throughout the country.


* Rachel Dyne is a staff member of a local YMCA in England and is a volunteer with the national office, YMCA England. In 2012, she took part in SOP held by Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) in Bangalore, India, after attending a mini-SOP for two weeks in July 2011 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has a special interest in issues and incidents in Northern Ireland as her mother is from the country, and her uncle, a policeman in Northern Ireland, was killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1988 with a parachute bomb that struck his patrol car.