Christians should take a leading role in healing Northern Ireland, says Bishop Ken Good, the Church of Ireland bishop for the cross-border diocese of Derry and Raphoe. He also says that politicians should speak less and that civil society should find its voice.
Bishop Ken Good was interviewed in the first of a series of more than 30 Forward Together podcasts recorded with leading figures across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to mark 21 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The interviews seek answers to questions about the future of Northern Ireland and the border counties.
Bishop Ken Good said: “As Christians we’re not only interested in our tribe of people. We’re interested in all…. I think the churches still can have important things to say about building a society for the common good.”
He adds: “We do have a role and I think we are playing that and it may be not getting much media attention, but we are involved in building bridges. We are involved in breaking down barriers. I think the churches work quite closely here in the city [of Derry-Londonderry].”
Bishop Good references his friendship with Bishop Donal McKeown, his counterpart in the Catholic Church. “It’s interesting how people respond to it. They find it refreshing. They find it gives encouragement. It comes easily. It’s a natural kind of thing for us. We tried to do it visibly to be seen to be friends, which we are, and we have a lot in common.”
Bishop Good regrets the passing of the former Civic Forum, which brought civil society together as part of the original Good Friday Agreement. Bishop Good also has a message for politicians – talk less. He says: “If it’s not too rude to say it, I think I would like to see our politicians speaking less, or at least be reported less, and for Civic Forum people to be speaking more, or to be quoted more, or to be asked more.”
He continues in a message to radio and television programmes: “I think the adversarial way in which these things are set up is counter-productive.” It reduces the scope for political consensus, suggests Bishop Good. He adds: “At the moment the political system isn’t working.”
But Bishop Good also says there needs to be more acknowledgement of the progress that has been made in ending the conflict and the huge loss of life. He calls on Christians to remember the principles of forgiveness and repentance, which can help society move forward.
The aim of the Forward Together podcasts is to promote a wider, more inclusive and engaged conversation about how we make progress and further solidify peace and create a genuinely shared and integrated society. We want that discussion to be mutually respectful, to be forward focused and positive. It considers the real challenges our society faces in the coming years.
This initiative is the result of a partnership between the Holywell Trust peace and reconciliation charity based in Derry/Londonderry and the Slugger O’Toole website. The Forward Together Podcasts are funded through the Media Grant Scheme of the Community Relations Council for Northern Ireland which also provides core support to Holywell Trust.
Listen to the podcast and interview here. The podcasts are also available on iTunes and Spotify.
Paul Gosling is editor of ‘Lessons from the Troubles and an Unsettled Peace’, author of ‘A New Ireland’ and ‘The Fall of the Ethical Bank’ and co-author of ‘Abuse of Trust’, the story of a child abuse scandal in Leicestershire. He is engaged by the Holywell Trust charity on peace and reconciliation projects.