By Steven Kennedy '14
Four days after the start of the new year, ten Gordon students traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland, with the purpose of not “doing,” but listening.
For ten days we ate and slept at an organization called the 174 Trust, whose goal is to promote peace and reconciliation in the unreconciled, divided and broken neighborhoods of North Belfast. It does this by simply providing a space that the community can use for whatever it needs: an AA meeting room, a disability group for adults, an Irish school, etc.
Its only rule is that Catholics and Protestants must meet together. In a city that is so divided—with separate schools, leisure centers, churches and fish-and-chip shops for each group—this is a big deal.
Through seemingly small interactions between people at the Trust over coffee or the pool table, people begin to see the individuals, not the “side,” political party, or flag that they adhere to. For the 174 Trust and its director, Bill Shaw, relationships are where reconciliation for Northern Ireland begins and ends.
As visitors we saw this during our discussions with politicians, the Lord Mayor, and former paramilitary members, along with playing football (soccer) with a group of rowdy Catholic and Protestant boys.
The campaign for peace happens on all levels of society. On each social tier, people are working for the greater good of Belfast and Northern Ireland. As long as organizations like the 174 Trust and the leaders like Bill Shaw—passionate lovers of the Lord and their nation—survive in Belfast, the sun will continue to shine in the city. Though tense times are ahead for Northern Ireland, we students returned with a sense of hope in the Gospel as work and action. Please pray for Northern Ireland.