‘On behalf of churches, let me say sorry for the times we said to victims, “you must forgive.”’ – Rev Karen Sutheraman at the 4 Corners Festival

The 4 Corners Festival hosted a discussion last night about why churches have not done enough to promote peacebuilding and reconciliation since the Belfast Agreement – and what Christians can do to change that. During the question and answer part of the evening, Alan McBride, whose wife was killed in the Shankill bomb, asked a question about forgiveness. Rev Karen Sutheraman, pastor of the Down Community, responded in this way: ‘On behalf of churches, let me say sorry for the … Read more

‘The Loyalism of 1994-1998 Needs to be the Standard for the Present’: 4 Corners Festival Opens with Panel in St Michael’s on the Shankill

The 4 Corners Festival opened last night with a panel discussion in St Michael’s church hall on the Shankill,  billed as ‘20 Years On: A Conflict Frozen in Time?’ In light of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement, it promised to reflect on how loyalism contributed to peacebuilding in the past – and to ask how loyalism might move forward into the future. Journalist Barney Rowan summed up the evening as the discussion was winding down: ‘The loyalism … Read more

‘… We have politics that is almost devoid of consistent Christian or gospel values, yet which is endorsed by thousands of Christian people’ – Rev Norman Hamilton

‘One might even be tempted to say that we have politics that is almost devoid of consistent Christian or gospel values, yet which is endorsed by thousands of Christian people’ – Rev Norman Hamilton Those are strong and sobering words from Rev Norman Hamilton, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Convenor of the church’s Council for Public Affairs, speaking at a prayer breakfast last week in advance of Belfast’s 4 Corners Festival (1-11 February). With talks … Read more

Courage of Kingsmills Victims Defied Sectarian Divide

Reconciliation statue Photo by Amanda Slater

Much ink has been spilled about the sorry Barry McElduff/Kingsmills loaf saga. Susan McKay’s analysis in Tuesday’s Irish Times is one of the most insightful, but bleak, contributions. It’s worth reading her full text, which brings her to this conclusion: The absence of reconciliation has never been more starkly apparent, and as usual, those most hurt in the past are hurt again. One paragraph in McKay’s article jumped out for me, because though tragic, it demonstrated for me that there … Read more

New Books for the New Year from Ó Tuama; Deeds and McManus

With a New Year comes new beginnings – or so the tyranny of the New Year’s Resolutions industry would have us believe. Resolutions can be a source of frustration rather than liberation, but there are few among us who do not give at least some pause for thought on how we might live better in the year ahead. Two new books by some of our most gifted local Christian writers provide tools for living better in the New Year: Daily … Read more

Enniskillen 30 Years On: Geraldine Smyth on Forgiveness and Mercy in the Public Square

An article by Joe Humphreys in today’s Irish Times marking the 30th anniversary of the Enniskillen bomb bears the headline: ‘Thirty years after Enniskillen: Can forgiveness transcend terrorist atrocities?’ Humphreys highlights the well-known words of forgiveness offered in the bomb’s immediate aftermath by Gordon Wilson, whose daughter Marie died in the atrocity. He also recognizes the words of forgiveness offered this week by Stephen Ross, who was severely injured in the bomb. Humphreys challenges us by asking: were these men right to forgive? … Read more

Beyond the Abuse Scandals? Review of Maher and O’Brien’s ‘Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism’

There is much insightful reading in a new collection of essays edited by Eamon Maher and Eugene O’Brien, Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism: From Galway to Cloyne and Beyond (Manchester University Press, 2017). Maher, who lectures in Humanities at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, has co-edited a number of collections on Irish Catholicism in recent years – all of which have made a valuable contribution in conversations about the future of the Church. Titles such as Contemporary Catholicism … Read more

‘Victims of the Peace’ – Lessons from David Bolton’s ‘Conflict, Peace and Mental Health’

If there is one book that should be required reading for our MLAs, it is David Bolton’s Conflict, Peace and Mental Health: Addressing the Consequences of Conflict and Trauma in Northern Ireland, published this year by Manchester University Press. The book is a timely reminder that while the Assembly remains suspended and political progress remains stalled, victims and survivors of violence continue to live with the consequences of the past.  Bolton eloquently describes their plight (p. 3): In Ireland, whilst … Read more

Jonathan Powell on Ending Conflicts – Insights on Leadership

Jonathan Powell, the British Government’s chief negotiator on Northern Ireland under Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-2007), joined Prof Richard English Monday for a conversation on ‘Ending Conflicts’ at the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s. Powell is now director of Inter/Mediate, a charity he founded in 2011 to work on conflict resolution around the world, and an Honorary Professor in the Mitchell Institute. Inter/Mediate is currently helping to facilitate negotiations in ten locations. … Read more

Denis Bradley: The Church Needs a Consultation of the Unfaithful

Writing in today’s Irish News, former priest Denis Bradley argues that what the Catholic Church needs to renew itself is a ‘consultation of the unfaithful.’ Reflecting on how aging priests, a lack of vocations, and vows of celibacy are symptomatic of a deeper malaise, Bradley rightly acknowledges that in recent years the Church has attempted a number of ‘listening exercises’ in an effort to understand what the Holy Spirit is saying through the church. The fact that the so-called ‘institutional’ … Read more

Review of One Man, One God: The Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid

For many years the labours that constituted Fr Alec Reid’s (1931-2013) life work remained behind closed doors. It had to be that way: what he was doing was much too sensitive to be public knowledge. We have known for some time that Reid instigated secret talks that helped kick-start the Northern Ireland peace process. He also had a hand in drafting documents that would become a basis for political negotiations and ultimately the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.   A new book … Read more

‘He saw a common well of untapped compassion and forgiveness’ – Mary McAleese at the Launch of One Man, One God: The Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid CSsR

One Man, One God: The Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid CSsR was launched on Tuesday at Clonard Monastery by former President Mary McAleese. The book chronicles Fr Reid’s incalculable contributions to the peace process on the island of Ireland, and explores how his Christian faith influenced and sustained him in his work. It was written by fellow Redemptorist Martin McKeever, a Belfast native and professor of moral theology in Rome, and published by Redemptorist Communications. In her remarks at … Read more

Review of Embodied Peacebuilding by Leah Robinson – A Theology of Reconciliation that is not Practical is not Reconciliation at all

In Northern Ireland, ‘reconciliation’ can be a divisive word – so much so that the very use of the term accomplishes the opposite of its meaning. A prominent study led by Prof John Brewer concluded that ‘reconciliation’ was so contested that the term should be avoided altogether. My own surveys of clergy and churchgoers revealed that almost no one can agree about what reconciliation actually means. Despite this, I still think that the concept of reconciliation can add something of value … Read more

Mitchell Institute Festival Goes Inside the Trump White House & Beyond – First Event Tomorrow on Radicalisation & Religious Freedom

The Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice’s annual Spring Festival of Conflict Transformation runs 26 April-11 May at Queen’s University Belfast. It features 11 events, free and open to the public, including discussions, lectures, film and art with topics including the Trump White House, terrorism, borders, radicalisation and genocide. The full programme can be found here (PDF)… | Overview of the events… Among the highlights is Belfast native Niall Stanage, who will go ‘Inside the Trump … Read more

Who will Win the Tipperary Peace Prize? Nominee Fr Patrick Devine to Speak at Queen’s, 22 March

The shortlist for this year’s Tipperary International Peace Prize has been announced. Most of the coverage in the Northern press has highlighted that Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is among the nominees. As in previous years, the range of nominees extends far beyond the island of Ireland. Other nominees with Irish connections are Amnesty International Ireland and Fr Patrick Devine. Fr Devine is a native of Frenchpark, Co Roscommon, and the founder the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation in … Read more

Senator George Mitchell in Conversation with Monica McWilliams at QUB on Friday – Free Tickets

American Senator George Mitchell, the mediator in the talks that produced the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, will be in conversation with Monica McWilliams on Friday 10 February, 1-2 pm, in the Great Hall at Queen’s University Belfast. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets must be reserved by contacting Mr Brett Walker (b.walker@qub.ac.uk / 028 9097 1346). The event is hosted by the Institute at Queen’s that bears the Senator’s name: the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global … Read more

The Legacy of Irish Missionaries Lives On: Book by Matt Moran – The Irish Tradition of ‘Social Justice as Faith’?

There’s been plenty of discussion in recent weeks (and years) about the decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The trauma stemming from clerical sexual abuse continues to cast a long shadow over Irish society. Indeed, the Irish Times’ Derek Scally has recently argued that the Catholic Church was as authoritarian and dominant as the communist regime in East Germany. The humanitarian efforts of Ireland’s missionary priests, nuns and laity may have been well-known in the past. They were supported … Read more

Caring for Carers? – 4 Corners, Cliftonville Football Club, and Rethinking Public Policy

The value of carers’ contributions to Northern Ireland is similar to that of the entire 2016/17 Stormont health budget – but is our Government investing in improving their circumstances? This year’s 4 Corners Festival (3-12 February) is highlighting carers’ contributions to our society through a banquet at City Hall for people who provide full time care for friends or relatives. Last week Cliftonville Football Club pitched in with a £1,000 contribution to the banquet. A meal at City Hall is … Read more

Catholic Ireland’s Confession Box – Irish Times Initiative

Yesterday I posted a blog that asked the question: ‘Is the Catholic Church Losing the Irish People?’ Coincidentally, yesterday’s Irish Times ran a lengthy and soul-searching reflection by Derek Scally on a similar topic. Scally, it seems, has concluded that yes, the Catholic Church already has lost the Irish people. But he argues that it is dishonest to simply blame the ‘institutional church,’ concluding his article with a call for people to submit ‘confessions’ to an online ‘confession box’, via … Read more

Is the Catholic Church Losing the Irish People? Reflections on Tony Flannery & the Church of England

On Sunday, Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery celebrated mass publicly for the first time in five years, defying a Vatican ban on public ministry dating from 2012. Fr Flannery is being disciplined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for expressing views contrary to official church teachings on matters like clerical celibacy and the ordination of women. Fr Flannery insisted the public mass was a one-off event, to celebrate his 70th birthday and the 40th anniversary of his … Read more