“Reconciliation does not remove the injuries and wounds of the past. A love of reconciliation is not weakness or cowardice. It demands courage, nobility and generosity.”
I’ve never taken a seat at a negotiating table but I was challenged to be a peacemaker in the heart of a beautiful community that suffered one of the worst atrocities of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The 20 year anniversary of the Omagh car bomb attack that indiscriminately killed 29 men, women and children and injured hundreds more was marked throughout Ireland this week.
I was living in San Francisco when the attack occurred yet the news shook me to the core. I was helping southeast Asian women who had fled The Killing Fields in Cambodia, land jobs. My Thai female manager was completing her PHD in Peace Studies at Berkeley. I returned to Northern Ireland shortly thereafter and Women Together for Peace, in Belfast, asked me to develop Peace and Reconciliation courses for women in three communities in Northern Ireland.
In Omagh I worked with Ireland’s Center for Reconciliation Studies, Omagh District Council, and Omagh Churches Forum to develop a course with a team that provided women from the different Christian Churches with an opportunity to develop themselves as Reconcilers.
Through listening and dialoguing with a range of speakers from different fields of expertise, who were committed to the reconciliation process, participants were encouraged to explore the relational nature of reconciliation in personal, social, political and religious contexts. The course was well attended and received great feedback. It was open to anyone interested in the subject matter and in improving understanding between the churches in the area.
This is not a statement of theology or a political statement. I write for my own emotional well being, healing, liberation and freedom. I also write to resolve issues from a politically turbulent past. Facing and learning from the past is freeing. I hope these questions help us to do that;
1. What does it mean to you to be a peacemaker in your school, workplace, family or community?
2. Does Omagh still need more therapeutic resources/money/funding/tools for groups on the quarry face (the forgotten nurses, doctors, emergency response teams on that fateful day AND the relatives of those killed)?
3. What is preventing the government of Northern Ireland from giving the people of Omagh the tools/resources they still need to heal from the trauma of the Omagh bomb?