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Church leaders endorse campaign supporting Haass talks

By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 September, 2013

Political leaders begin process of dialogue led by Richard Haass next week.

1185405_564179430285902_291950170_nLeaders from the Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Churches are endorsing a cross-church campaign in support of the upcoming Haass talks.

The campaign is aimed at encouraging all who are taking part and the wider community to seek the common good at this time.

Next week, Northern Ireland’s political leaders will begin a process of dialogue led by Richard Haass.

The cross-church ‘Hope and History – Building Peace in Northern Ireland’ campaign is inviting members of the various Churches to sign up to a statement that gives positive encouragement to those who are committed to making peace work and to improve relationships into the future.

It has been endorsed by Cardinal Seán Brady (Catholic Primate of All Ireland), Most Rev Richard Clarke (Church Of Ireland Primate of All Ireland), Rt Rev Dr Rob Craig (Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) and Rev Dr Heather Morris (President of the Methodist Church in Ireland).

In a statement, Dr Heather Morris said, “As Richard Haass arrives to help to see us through our current impasse we want to encourage our leaders and our community as a whole to seek the common good at this most opportune of times.”

“Words themselves will not be the final answer – no words are adequate to compensate for, or cover the grief of the peoples here. However, as people of faith, we can join in prayer and in hope, in commitment and in conviction that these talks can and must be a step forward toward this important reality.”

The name of the campaign is a reference to Seamus Heaney’s poem, ‘The Cure At Troy’ in which Heaney wrote:

“History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.”

Elsewhere in the poem, the poet notes that words themselves are limited: “No poem or play or song / Can fully right a wrong / Inflicted and endured”.

Heaney’s poem speaks of a distant shore, a belief in something larger than us that might lead us to look at our own holy wells, cures and miracles in a light that helps us see what is already around us in a new fashion.

Campaign organisers outline their hope, as people of faith. “We join in prayer and in hope, in commitment and in conviction that these talks can and must be a step forward toward this important reality.”

The campaign is focused on humility, healing and hope. The statement says organisers believe that “in all acts of reconciliation we need to accept humbly our own part in how the past has shaped the present; our complicity in the divisions within our society and our contribution to the pain that different people across the spectrum of our society have experienced.”

“We need to seek forgiveness for the past and change the way that we live and speak and act in the present, in order to foster a shared and peaceful future.”

Of healing, the statement continues, “We believe that key Gospel principles have much to contribute to the wellbeing of all of our community whether we are Christian, atheist, agnostic or of any faith. Central to them all is Jesus’ command to “love our neighbour”; not a passive sentimental saying, but a radically transformational idea, especially as he went further and demanded that we also love our enemies, and forgive those who have done wrong to us.”

“Forgive us, as his followers, where we have failed to follow his words and actions in this regard.”

The campaign urges the public to join in “as we seek to make such high ideals our contribution to our shared space; as we seek to address the pain of the past and the tensions in the present, so that they may not limit the possibilities that lie in the future.”

Organisers have suggested that those who agree with teh aspirations tweet their support: #hopeandhistory

The statement concludes by saying, “We believe that there is hope. Our country has come a long way in twenty years. There are relationships at political, church and community level that would have been unimaginable in 1993.”

“However we need to draw on sources of imagination, generosity and endurance to go further, going beyond pragmatic, political structures that are based on a lack of trust and common feeling, and seeking to establish a truly peaceful society, where there is not only an absence of violence and the threat of violence, but a common sense of stability, welfare and opportunity for all.”

“This begins with a commitment to listen truly to one another, then resolving to work together so that all our children and our neighbours’ children will flourish in a new Northern Ireland, a society that is truly at peace.”

The statement can be read in full online at www.hopeandhistory.com where people can also sign their support. It has already received 677 signatures in just two days and 497 Facebook likes.

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