|Thanksgiving Square Belfast|
When I think of Northern Ireland, the first thing that came to my mind is my secondary school (circa 2000) Social Studies version of the Catholic-Protestant conflict, and by specifying it so I mean that we got a simplified, watered-down version biased in a way to suit the purposes of Social Studies. I'm not too sure either that there is an objective truth -- everyone gives their own subjective version of history -- but I think it's always nicer to hear from someone closer to the topic.
In a taxi back to Jordanstown from Belfast city centre, I had a really interesting conversation -- after I got used to the thick accent! -- with the driver. He lived in Belfast all his life, and he really likes it because 'it's the people that make where you live, a nice place to live in'.
He gave us his summary of the religious history of Northern Ireland: In the 16th century, The British Empire had plans to colonise the Irish people by resettling Scottish people. "But they didn't buy the land; they stole it and forced the people off the land." The previously poorer Catholics, upon seeing how the richer Protestant settlers were gaining control of important industries, started to educate themselves more and now they dominate instead.
"There was a lot of violence in our history, a lot of injustice as well. A lot of it by the King of England building an Empire, you know?"
"Yeah, they came all the way to Singapore too."
"Yeah, I know. Did you guys have a similar experience in your history -- was it violent?"
"Well, not directly, and it was more like, divide-and-conquer."
"Yeah, well they did that with us too."
And so that bring us back to the sculpture found in Thanksgiving Square in Belfast city centre, by the River Lagan:
The aim of this sculpture is to bring people together and to change hearts and minds; to make bridges across the divides in our community. To work towards a peaceful, happy existence for everyone on this planet by respect for each other, their cultural heritages and all our aspirations.
Sometimes you just need someone to tell you like it is!
|Multifaith prayer room, Heathrow|