WHAT a week. Just when we were starting to emerge from the pandemic wilderness, news began to break concerning Russia invading Ukraine.
We have barely had the time to recover or catch our breath, and yet here we are once again, faced with fear, dread and a cold breeze of uncertainty as we glance into the unknown. It is true that sometimes when we feel as though there is a shining light of hope at the end of a dark tunnel, it can instead feel as though it is another oncoming train. Life is indeed fragile, and there are many things that are completely out of our control.
As we remain glued to the scenes from Ukraine and threats from Putin, we are reminded that the world once again feels a very unsafe place. Yet toward the end of the week of this breaking news, a few hundred of us, invited by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Kate Nicholl, gathered together in Belfast City Hall for her ‘Connecting Our Belfast’ dinner. The evening was vibrant, inclusive and hope-filled as we were entertained by harpist Ursula Burns, treated to a ‘Belfast Love Story’ by the fabulous Richard O’Leary, and not forgetting the outstanding poem written and read by Nandi Jola.
We are keepers of this universe
Interconnected by Ubuntu
The Arch Desmond Tutu taught us what a rainbow nation is
Now let us reside in one love.
To the new Belfast
A City of Sanctuary to many
A place of hope and dreams to others
Let us build more bridges
And a better future than the past.
As Nandi shared her poem, I once again caught a glimpse of hope. I glanced around a room filled with people from across our city who will not give up on peace and who are the very reason why we should never give up on peace. In the midst of the wounded, suffering, grieving, frightened, displaced, homeless, hiding and the hurting across our world – there are people of peace.
• People of peace, involved in negotiations.
• People of peace providing aid for the most affected.
• People of peace opening up their borders to welcome refugees.
• People of peace crowding the streets in countries across our world shouting ‘No to war!’
• People of peace, here in Belfast, who recognise there is no ‘us and them’ – but rather, ‘us for them’.
• People of peace who love people.
Now is the time for a politics of peace, compassion, kindness, grace, acceptance and the recognition that we are neighbours. The  dinner reminded me that we are a great people of hope, grace and peace. Yes, things are difficult, but recognise there is hope even in the midst of the pain. Blessed are the peacemakers!