Recently our city hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. As we watched the scenes of violence unfold across media outlets, it would have been very easy to allow hopelessness to have the final say. But no. Not Belfast.
Instead, in the midst of chaos we saw courage and hope rise.
During one of the nights of rioting on the Springfield Road, I put my clergy collar on and joined the team of community/youth workers, local residents, politicians, and many others who were determined to help ease the tensions.
The road was swarmed with a couple of hundred youths who were looking to riot. In the midst of what was a potentially dangerous situation – I watched hope, love, and a sense of community rise.
A human chain was created across Lanark Way to prevent the young people getting access to the peace wall. As we stood in line bricks, bottles and abuse was hurled at us. However, the sheer spirit of togetherness and peace-making won.
Every single one of the people who stood in that human chain are Belfast heroes.
• Peacemakers who value people more than positions.
• Peacemakers who are risk-takers.
• Peacemakers who go beyond the tweets and the talk.
• Peacemakers who are driven by a desire to pave a better way for our communities.
• You will always find peacemakers with the people and among the people.
Twenty three years ago, the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Yes we still have a long way to go, but rather than focus on the negativity let’s be thankful for how far we have come.
• I am thankful for the 71% who voted yes.
• I am thankful for the brave leaders who brought about this agreement.
• I am thankful for peacemakers, thinkers, strategists, risk-takers and decision makers.
• I am thankful that my children grow up in a different island from what I did.
• I am thankful for ALL our politicians and the reminder that they aren’t perfect, but I believe they want what’s best for the people they represent.
• I am thankful for those who seek peace, reconciliation and justice.
• I am thankful for the many examples of reaching out to the ‘other’.
• I am thankful for a land that is beautiful with amazing people.
• I am thankful for what we have in common rather than what tears us apart.
• I am thankful for our youth who will take the baton of peace on and I am thankful for the peacemakers who shone during the recent riots.
Thank you. We are a truly amazing city. We must not lose hope.
We must keep paving a better way!