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Faith Matters

Events with a cross-community flavour at Féile an Phobail

Fr Martin Magill highlights events with a cross-community theme at Féile an Phobail, which starts next week

Sister Martina from the Adoration Sisters on the Falls Road and the Rev Harold Good at a 4 Corners Festival event earlier this year. Rev Good will be reflecting on his experiences in peace processes and decommissioning at a Féile an Phobal event on August 8.
Martin Magill

"And we're still at it in our own place,

Still trying to reach the future through the past,

Still trying to carve tomorrow from a tombstone..."

These few lines come from Paul Brady's song The Island and seem apt as we look back over the last few weeks to this place - whatever we call it.

We are some distance away from being a society at peace with itself. There is much yet to be done in the work of peace-making. All of us can play a part whenever the opportunities arise.

In this article I want to mention a few events that should give food for thought as we consider what we might do.

At the start of August, Féile an Phobal, which originates in west Belfast, will once again offer a wide variety of events.

It may surprise readers that several events have been planned to promote cross-community relationships.

For the purposes of this article, I will focus on a few of these which I believe have something to contribute to the work of peace making.

The first event takes place in the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts in north Belfast on August 2 at 7pm.

The theme is 'Grace, Generosity and Acknowledgement in Reconciling Society'.

What makes the event a bit different is that the panel will explore this theme focusing it on "a broadly Protestant or unionist or loyalist perspective".

The panel which will be chaired by Peter Osborne, who is the chairperson of the Community Relations Council, is made up of the following: Glenn Bradley, Veterans for Peace; Sophie Long, doctoral student at Queen's University Belfast; Alan McBride, manager of Wave in Belfast; and the Rev Cheryl Meban, Presbyterian chaplain to Ulster University.

There will be an opportunity for questions afterwards.

On Friday August 4 at 5pm in St Mary's University College, BBC journalist Tori Watson will host a discussion with five people who are experts in or who regularly speak about healing.

The discussion is entitled 'Healing the Wounds of Our Troubled Past'.

In this event the five-member panel will be made up of: David Bolton, trauma writer, researcher and practitioner; Máire Braniff, director of Incore, School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at Ulster University; assembly member Nichola Mallon from the SDLP; Ulster Unionist assembly member and former victims' commissioner Mike Nesbitt; and Kate Turner, director of Healing through Remembering.

Each of them will offer some practical suggestions as to how we might heal some of our wounds coming from the past.

Expect a wide range of topics to be covered in the Falls Road Library when journalist and author Barney Rowan will be talking to Methodist minister the Rev Harold Good on Tuesday August 8 at 3pm.

The conversation will focus on the life and times of Rev Harold Good and in particular his involvement in peace processes including the decommissioning of arms in Ireland, the Basque Country and Colombia.

Finally, I would draw attention to a cross-community cultural event, 'The Hounds Of Ulster Concert', which will take place on Wednesday August 9 at 7pm in An Chultúrlann on the Falls Road.

The festival programme describes the event in this way: "The Hounds of Ulster are a cultural music group that originated from the members' experiences in marching bands from the unionist traditional background.

"This performance will be a cross-community and cross-cultural collaboration involving the Hounds and the McCullough Curran School of Irish Dance.

"Coming together as a collective group, the Hounds and Dancers bring a new dimension to Irish culture from both sides of the divide.

"This showcase promotes how people can use the medium of music and dance to help breakdown years of division and establish new friendships."

I would particularly encourage readers who haven't previously attended anything in Féile to come along to at least one of the above.

  • For all the events in this year's Féile, visit http://feilebelfast.com.
  • Fr Martin Magill is administrator of the parish of Ballyclare and Ballygowan in the Diocese of Down and Connor. 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.
  • Next year's 4 Corners Festival will run between Friday February 2 and Sunday February 11.

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