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News > Northern Ireland statement

Statement by the Peace Council
June 20, 2003

A Word of Thanks to the People of Northern Ireland: from the Members and Trustees of the International & Interfaith Peace Council

(Note: Twenty women and men from 15 different countries, highly respected for how they live, and well-known in their different faith communities, have been selected to be members of the International Interfaith Peace Council. Ten trustees, also of various faiths, work with the Peace Council. Between June 16 and 20 a majority of Peace Councilors and Trustees met in Northern Ireland at the invitation of Mairead Maguire, herself a Peace Councilor from Northern Ireland, and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner. During their time here, the Peace Councilors and Trustees met with many different groups in various sites in Northern Ireland.)

Dear People of Northern Ireland,

We are thankful to you for the warmth and hospitality you have extended to us while we have been hosted in your beautiful land. Our special thanks go to Mairead Maguire, the Peace People, the Interfaith Forum, and the 18 other groups that invited us here and arranged the heart-to-heart meetings we have had with so many of you.

We came to Northern Ireland from many countries, representing many faith traditions, and sadly familiar with many conflict situations ourselves. We express our sympathy with all of you here who have suffered injury or bereavement in the on-going conflict. We recognize the efforts of those who are providing counseling and support for victims and who are helping rehabilitate former prisoners.

While here in Northern Ireland, we have been impressed with the creative ways that you have discovered to start working and communicating with each other. We have witnessed your attempts to reconcile your differences through grassroots dialogue and to resolve your conflicts through mutual understanding. In your inter-faith groups you have found religion to provide an inspiration for nonviolence rather than a dividing line and a justification for violence. In your search for justice, you have learned that justice is not a matter of keeping score but is a matter of uplifting humanity. In bringing together your youth in various ways (including integrated education) and letting them imagine a peaceful future, you are establishing the basis for that peaceful future. In renouncing violence – physical, verbal, and symbolic -- you are bringing to an end a way of life and a culture of violence that plunge communities into terrible cycles of violence and counter-violence from which no winners can emerge. Here in Northern Ireland you are in the process of creating a new culture of nonviolence from which other parts of the world can draw inspiration.

We have been especially impressed with the role women have played in cultivating the culture of nonviolence and peaceful reconciliation in Northern Ireland. All too often women’s contributions go unacknowledged. The women of Northern Ireland are models for the rest of the world. We have admired the ways in which many of them have refused to yield to despair and a sense of helpless victimhood and instead have taken upon themselves responsibilities for initiating individual peace-directed activities and projects. Increasingly peace-loving people in Northern Ireland are refusing to surrender to those small groups with vested interests who wish to perpetuate conflicts. Such peace-loving people are challenging the various forms of authoritarianism, militarism, and political hegemony that sow the seeds of inter-group conflicts and communal violence. These women and men have won our admiration. They have given us models of courageous nonviolence that we can take back with us to other parts of the world. Increasingly the world is looking at Northern Ireland as a possible model for harmonious resolution of inter-group and political conflict.

We came to Northern Ireland to see and to learn and to encourage all those in this beautiful land who are working for peace. We will carry away with us from Northern Ireland lessons from which others in similar situations can also learn. You have shown the importance of being sensitive to the fears and needs of others, the importance of not demonizing those with whom we disagree, the importance of patience, of respectful dialogue, of building trust, of drawing on our religious traditions with their messages of love and reconciliation, and of laying the groundwork for a nonviolent future in which our children and our children’s children can live in peace.

We are profoundly grateful to you for what you have taught us. Through Mairead Maguire and others whom we have met during this visit, we plan to remain in touch and involved. Our hopes and prayers are with you as you continue to build peace.


-- The International & Interfaith Peace Council and its Trustees

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Page Published: 06/20/2003 · Page Last Modified: Thursday, December 6, 2007
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