Faith Matters

Bringing the 4 Corners of Belfast - and beyond - together online

THE 4 Corners Festival opens on Sunday as it embarks on a week-long programme of online-only events designed to 'bring Belfast together'.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, as with every other aspect of life at present, forced 4 Corners to reimagine how it operates.

It's a particular challenge, however, for a festival which holds the idea of encouraging people to physically visit different and unfamiliar parts, or 'corners', of Belfast at the heart of its identity.

Nonetheless, Rev Steve Stockman and Fr Martin Magill - the Presbyterian minister and Catholic priest whose friendship flourished into the festival - believe the 2021 4 Corners programme will help "bring Belfast together in these difficult times and do that in ways that will help us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually".

This year's keynote speaker will be international conflict resolution expert Professor John Paul Lederach from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

He'll be taking part in 'Breathe Out Hope' from 7pm on Sunday, in an event whose other contributors include poet Pádraig Ó Tuama and Jamaica-born singer-songwriter Raquel McKee.

Prof Lederach will also be in conversation with Dr Gladys Ganiel on February 3.

Screenwriters Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson and producer Louise Gallagher will take part in a panel discussion about their short film Rough on February 1.

The film is an examination of the issues around paramilitary-style attacks, including justice, addiction and mental health.

A mental health workshop for young people and a session for 'resilience practitioners' follow on February 2.

In the times we are living through, it has been necessary at times to stop and just breathe... take a deep breath for some calming relief

Another important event is 'Breath knocked out of me' on February 4, which explores what faith communities and others can do about domestic violence.

Dr Olive Buckley, a GP and forensic medical doctor, detective superintendent Lindsay Fisher from the PSNI's public protection branch and Rev Alan Lorimer, a chartered psychologist and Methodist minister, will take part in the discussion.

Other highlights in an eclectic programme include musician Duke Special 'in conversation', a 'knit and natter' meeting, and a 'wonderful wander', in which Rev David Campton and Jim Deeds take a podcast walk through Belfast's public parks discussing ideas around ecology and the environment.

Each day begins and ends with prayer sessions.

4 Corners Festival founders Fr Martin Magill, pictured left, and Rev Steve Stockman. Picture by Bernie Brown

Tying the programme together is the theme of 'breathe'. As Mr Stockman and Fr Magill explain, "in the times we are living through, it has been necessary at times to stop and just breathe... take a deep breath for some calming relief".

"But we do not mean 'breathe' simply as a passive brief break in the Covid-19 difficulties," they said.

"The Hebrew word for breath is 'Ruach'. In the very first verses of Genesis, Ruach is translated 'spirit' and is the very source of life. This is the Spirit of God hovering over the depths, creating a world.

"We believe that God is still hovering. In 2021 the depths happen to be coronavirus."

More about the programme for this year's 4 Corners Festival can be found here.

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Faith Matters