Faith Matters

Fr Martin Magill: 10 highlights from this year's Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week

Fr Martin Magill shares 10 of his highlights from this year's Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week

Primary school children from north Belfast take part in an International Peace Day event held in the Girdwood Hub during last year's Community Relations Week. Picture by Mal McCann.
Fr Martin Magill

MORE than 160 events on the theme of 'Safe Space: Shared Place' will run between Monday September 18 and Sunday September 24 as part of this year's Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week.

The week includes the International Day of Peace - or Peace Day - on Thursday September 21, a United Nations day to encourage all humanity to contribute to building a culture of peace across the globe.

In our world at present, the need to work and pray for peace is as relevant as ever.

To mark International Day of Peace there will be various celebrations including a concert involving pupils from 20 primary schools in Cookstown on Tuesday September 19 at 7.30pm.

On Peace Day itself there will be an inter-faith event, called 'Faith in Peace', from 12.30pm in Riddel Hall on Belfast's Stranmillis Road with contributions relating to peace from religions including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahai, as well as from different Christian denominations.

The week, which is coordinated by the Community Relations Council, showcases the sorts of activities that take place year-round.

Events are organised by a wide of bodies, including libraries, councils, museums, community and voluntary groups, church fora and youth organisations.

In our world at present, the need to work and pray for peace is as relevant as ever 

There are too many events to highlight within the space of this short column, so instead I will focus on my personal 'top 10'.

1. People and Politics: Engaging with Politicians for the Common Good

Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh - Monday September 18, 7pm

Organised by Fermanagh & Omagh District Council in partnership with Omagh Churches' Forum, this facilitated discussion focuses on how people and churches can engage with politicians to help build a better society, reflecting on the common good, equality and a healthy, active democracy.

2. Gaelic East Belfast

Short Strand Community Centre - Monday September 18, 7.30pm

Linda Ervine and Gordon McCoy aim to uncover the largely forgotten Gaelic history and heritage of east Belfast which connects the Short Strand and Newtownards Road.

3. Women: Exploring our Shared History and Future of Bonfires

Women's Resource and Development Agency, Mount Charles, Belfast - Tuesday September 19, 10.30am

Groups of women have already explored the history, international use and personal experiences of bonfires. They will now present their learning and share recommendations as to how bonfires and associated events can become more culturally inclusive celebrations.

4. Intergenerational Tea Dance

Tommy Maken Arts and Community Centre, Keady - Tuesday September 19, 2pm

Tea dance for senior citizens, with help provided by young people in the area. The event will help break down barriers between age, race, gender and political background as people from all walks of life come together to enjoy an afternoon in a safe and shared place.

5. The Welcome Wall

Brownlow Library, Craigavon - Saturday September 23, 10.30am

This event is aimed at children to help them understand issues refugee children of a similar age face on every day. Through stories, arts and crafts, children will learn what it means to leave your home and produce a 'welcome wall', to be displayed for refugees when they arrive in Northern Ireland.

6. Meet your Ballyclare Neighbours

Ballyclare Presbyterian Church, Doagh Road - Saturday September 23, 1pm

Churches and community groups in the Ballyclare area will come together to showcase the wide range of activities and support services they have on offer to encourage residents to become more involved.

7. The Social Conscience of the Song

The Playhouse, Artillery Street, Derry - Saturday September 23, 8pm

Focusing on how artistic expression can unite communities, this live musical performance and interactive discussion will trace the history of songs that became the soundtrack to generations and causes, including civil rights, the Troubles, anti-war and class struggles.

8. Living Memory: A Creative Writing Exhibition with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Falls Road Library, Belfast - throughout September

Through creative writing, this project helps communities to discover and explore war graves in their area. Inspired by photographs taken at Dundonald Cemetery, a writing group has penned a series of poems examining the past which are now being displayed at the library.

9. History from Headstones

Derry City Cemetery - 1pm on Monday September 18, Wednesday September 20 and Friday September 22

A shared resting place for both communities since 1853, this tour - guided by both Catholic and Protestant guides - will shine a light on the cemetery's shared history and connections with the Troubles.

10. Art Exhibition from Maghaberry Prison

Antrim Library - throughout September

This exhibition of work by inmates from Maghaberry Prison hopes to promote social inclusion and provide an opportunity to showcase their cultural expression in an environment of mutual respect and understanding.

  • For further information and details of other events, visit the Community Relations Council website.
  • Fr Martin Magill is administrator of the parish of Ballyclare and Ballygowan in the Diocese of Down and Connor until September 22, when he moves to become parish priest of St John's in Belfast. Together with the Rev Steve Stockman, the minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Fr Magill is a founder of the 4 Corners Festival, which aims to promote unity and reconciliation in the midst of Belfast's - and Ireland's - troubled past.

Peter Osborne, chair of the Community Relations Council, and Karen Logan of National Museums Northern Ireland at the Ulster Museum in Belfast for the launch of this year's Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.

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