Reconciliation in Northern Ireland

A Christian Science perspective.

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The recently released 5,000-page Saville report revealed facts surrounding the events in Northern Ireland in 1972, which became known as Bloody Sunday ­– a day when British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of civil rights protesters in Londonderry, killing 13. This “epic fact-finding probe,” reveals that the protesters were unarmed and innocent, and that the soldiers were to blame for the attack.

I remember vividly the photographs at that time, and some days later was in that shocked city, not too far from my former home outside Belfast. This terrible event gave much impetus for recruitment of thousands of young men and women to join the ranks of the terrorist organization known as the Provisional Irish Republican Army. It was another 30 years before there was peace in the land.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has in recent days expressed his profound regret on behalf of the government and the British people for this event. When the British Army arrived in Northern Ireland in 1972, they were hailed as saviors by many people who had endured three years of bombings and killings. But Bloody Sunday changed their view to one of anger and distrust. The Saville report represents a significant step in the healing of hearts, which is still unfinished.

What can we as individuals do to help foster peace and reconciliation wherever in the world they’re needed? It could be said that the quest for peace is in the hands of politicians, but there is something we all can do. It is not naive to say we can all pray, and pray every day for a right solution in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Kyrgyzstan, and in other arenas of conflict.

We can pray with a heart touched by the Christ – God’s divine message of love for His children. Christ-based reconciliation is conflict resolution brought about by the unfolding wisdom of a listening prayer. Such prayer reveals and supports practical, creative solutions based on spiritual ideas from God. The potency of good ideas nullifies every thrust of evil and helps people learn to be instruments of harmony, living together in peace.

Reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland is a work in progress, including more integrated schools and mixed marriages. Old hurts have continued to heal in a new mood of optimism and cooperation. And we can continue to see progress by keeping peace uppermost in our thoughts, whether it involves the pursuit of healing in our own relationships or praying to end war abroad.

Each individual is the spiritual idea of the beneficent good intelligence we call God. Our real, spiritual nature is not warlike, belligerent, and violent, but peaceful, loving, and concerned for one another’s welfare.

As Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established” (p. 467). This explains a law of God. Let us all hold to this law in our prayers, and in this way work further toward establishing peace where it’s needed.

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