Irish lessons on peace and reconciliation: relevant for America, too?

Irish lessons on peace

Tilework, St Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry-Derry

Tilework, St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry-Derry

I grew up with my mom’s stories and reflections on her Irish grandmom from County Down (actually near Purdys Burn just outside of Belfast). And, last year, my wife, youngest daughter and I made our first visit to Northern Ireland to check out the situation. We wound up at one point standing next to an old cannon looking out from the parapet above the formerly divided city of Derry-Londonderry. It somehow seemed symbolic. The city has worked hard to build peace after the decades of the Troubles between Catholics and Protestants. 

The Economist speaks

What is remarkable about an article this week in The Economist (In Ireland’s Jerusalem, 4 August 2017)? It focuses on hate and forgiveness in Londonderry-Derry. The Economist drops its charts and graphs to have us take a step back and figure out how to get along. Perhaps we should really stop and listen? Maybe there are some Irish lessons on peace that might work for Americans too? Perhaps we could also have a go at reconciliation across our increasingly fractured society?

Check out this great quote from the Economist. It says something about how we Americans might find a way to bridge the gap between us. Characterising the case made in the new book, Forgiveness Remembers (2017, published by Instant Apostle), the Economist says:

“[…] people whose lives have been blighted by injury or violence (whether politically inspired or not) should be alive to the gravity of what has happened, but nonetheless find ways to rise above feelings of vindictiveness. Sometimes, hatred needs to come to the surface before it can be overcome […]. Once you acknowledge that you hate somebody, you might over time be able to move on to a feeling of pity for whatever prompted that person to behave in such a terrible way, and eventually to compassion. But the process should not be rushed; forgiveness can take a long time.”

Food for thought

This is food for thought in the context of Brexit, which could possibly destabilise the Northern Irish peace. But, it may also be applicable for America as well, where the polarisation has become quite intense. There is a lot of anger just under the surface in the USA. And, I am thinking that it is worth a try to address the situation.

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