Siobhan Hanley from Trócaire is asking local people to support this year’s Lenten Appeal if they can as social and travel restrictions, including school closures and the suspension of Masses, means that for the first time in almost 50 years many Belfast homes may be without Trócaire boxes this year. Siobhan said, “The Lenten Appeal this year focuses on people who are trapped in long-running wars such as those affecting places like South Sudan and Somalia. Generations of people in these countries have been forced to live through conflict. Their resilience and determination to help each other is remarkable. By donating to the Lenten Appeal you will be helping them to help themselves.” “Featured on the Trócaire Box this year are two incredible women from South Sudan – Awut and Ajak. With International Women's Day on the 8th March and Mother's Day on the 14th March, it's really timely to share their story. Both they and their families had to flee the awful violence of South Sudan’s war. Ajak lost her husband due to the fighting and had to flee her home with her young children. She came to a village where she met Awut, who had also been forced to flee for her life. Despite having so little herself, Awut welcomed Ajak onto her small patch of land and now both families support each other to rebuild their lives,” said Siobhan.
IN October 2020, Belfast City Council adopted a proactive policy called the Racism Free Zone. This idea is easily applicable: it all depends on how the city’s residents take it up without being coerced. If it was my responsibility to enforce, I would have it entrenched by law. The Racism Free Zone concept has been applied in many cities around the world. Eugene, a city in the US Pacific northwest, was arguably the first place to adopt the Racism Free Zone model of thinking and action. There had been numerous racial incidents in the town and people decided to engage with the local authorities and schools. Schools started this movement. In the 1980s, Bahati Myhelatu Ansari, a community activist from Chicago, was the campaigner behind the racism free anthem. She spread this agenda to youth in many schools across Oregon. It grew and inspired the education sector. Students and teachers were urged, not coerced, to take responsibility for their actions, any that racially offended others. While wearing a rainbow ribbon at a school assembly, a student at a middle school in Eugene made a speech that echoed the calls of many others that they wanted to live in an anti-racist society. As simple as that! This is not some utopian dream. It is good that we are even talking about a Racism Free Zone. People have to be ready to accept such as a bylaw or if organisations can supervise themselves in order to differentiate racial intent and so-called banter, then so be it. I have heard people calling out political correctness, PC-gone-mad situations. Freedom of speech is not an island in itself; it is surrounded by the fundamental freedoms of those who will be affected by misuse of freedom of speech.
THE world of MotoGP racing is mourning the passing of one of motorcycle racing’s greats. Double 125cc world champion and veteran MotoGP team boss Fausto Gresini has died at the age of 60 in hospital after a two-month battle with Covid-19. The Italian was taken ill with the virus just before Christmas and was hospitalised on December 27 in Imola.
THIS is the story of a brick. Not just any brick, but one that holds the secrets of our hills – it too was forged in red-hot temperatures. Dúlra picked it up as a souvenir as he was leaving Colin Glen this week – he had a special place in mind for it. And not sitting on the mantelpiece or on the living-room floor like Father Jack! The lower part of Colin Glen was for many years the heart of brick-making in Belfast – and today, these bricks – many shattered – are still scattered all around it. Kick a bit of dirt here and your toe will probably sting from meeting a piece of buried, rock-hard clay, and they’re as common on the surface as wild flowers.
For many, St Patrick's Day 2021 will mark the first anniversary of the arrival of the awful virus which locked down our lives, cut us off from our neighbours and shuttered the places in which we gathered to make merry.
LAST week I mentioned that in the lead up to Easter we will focus on those who encountered Jesus. I want to turn our attention to John, Chapter 4. Jesus is tired from his journey, and takes time to recoup and get some water. He notices a woman coming to the well. A number of things are interesting to note regarding this encounter. Firstly, we are told the time is noon. This is important as normally the women would go and get water early in the morning, simply to avoid the heat.
MARCH is always a frantic month for one reason or another. It will involve Lent for a lot of people. And that means a pause and a reflection in the interest of physical and spiritual wellbeing. It also involves St Patrick’s Day. If we don’t celebrate our wellbeing we celebrate the Irish language, culture and history. If we allow ourselves to get past the commercial plastic Paddywhackery, of course. President Joe Biden released a statement this week announcing Irish Heritage Month.
A MOTION recommending that Belfast City Council endorses a report which calls for greater access to the Belfast Hills has been referred to the People and Communities committee at Council for further consideration. The motion which was brought to the Council by People Before Profit’s Councillor Matt Collins comes after the Belfast Hills Access Campaign published a document charting the various initiatives that have attempted to improve access to the hills from as far back as 1945 and suggests four routes which would improve access for those living in the city.
The international festival celebrating the Irish language will take place from March 1 – 17 Uachtarán na hÉireann, Micheál D. Ó hUigínn was joined by the ambassadors of this year’s festival Imelda May, Declan Hannon and Bláthnaid Treacy to launch Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia 2021.
THE Stormont Executive’s delayed lockdown recovery plan was announced on Tuesday afternoon with deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill describing it as “cautious and hopeful” while First Minister Arlene Foster branded it “not perfect”. It’s a plan that has people raising questions without infuriating anyone, yet at the same time has people hoping for better times ahead without jumping for joy, And that’s possibly as much as can be expected from a plan drawn up without the information needed to put it together. Its five stages are as nebulous as the process for getting from one to the next. The text is littered with contingencies: what ifs, but onlys and maybes, and the subsequent utterances of the First and deputy First Minister were similarly cautious.