Healing Spaces


Today the Consultative Group on the Past, otherwise known as the "Eames-Bradley" group, make their formal puplic presentation of their proposals, although huge chunks of their report has been systematically leaked, including the controversial proposal to give £12,000 as a recognition payment (not compensation) re each person who died as a result of the Troubles. The leaking of this proposal in particular has prompted much conspiracy theorising regarding the rationale: was it the NIO letting the cat out of the bag early, so that the obvious suspects would get on their high horses and kill this proposal stone dead, so that they wouldn't have to stump up for it, or was it the group itself, hoping that this controversial item would give them cover to get the more important items through without controversy.

What and whichever, I'm not going to engage in such a game (although it is good fun, and no-one will ever be proved wrong)... Nor am I going to comment on the proposals until I have seen all the details in black and white... All 100+ pages of them from what I hear.

I got an invitation to be there for the launch (though not as part of the Methodist delegation), but decided that I wouldn't, largely as I am supposed to be at the Re:Call retreat for Methodist Ministers in Sligo. For a while I was thinking about phoning the person who invited me and saying I would be there after all, as I really would like to be there to hear first hand what is said... But I was also worried about my motivations for being there: including egocentric pride about being there at what could well be a significant moment in the healing of hurts in this land, or not as the case may be.

But we've got to stop treating events like this, and the "peace process" as a whole as spectator sports. That particularly applies to the church, which has, in the past functioned, as it should to a certain extent, acted as a place of sanctuary for those affected by the troubles... But also where many of us could avoid the real issues of the troubles. If we are to experience any sort of healing of the past, and hope for the future, we as churches need to get involved, we need to live up to our calling as ministers of reconciliation, agents of Christ's healing. Indeed, as Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester Cathedral, but who was studied the Northern Ireland situation extensively, suggests, the church should provide "healing spaces" where people of opposing perspectives may encounter one another and find a new, shared understanding of the past, and even more importantly, a shared future.

Next Tuesday at the Farset Centre in West Belfast, the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland is releasing a short booklet, which I have contributed to, entitled "Divided Past: Shared Future: Essays on Churches addressing the Legacy of the Troubles." One of the members of the "Eames-Bradley" group... Rev. Lesley Carroll will be offering her perspectives on it in the light of her recent experiences. But before I hear what she or the group of which she is a part have to say, I know that the "legacy of the Troubles" will not be addressed by the 100+ pages of their report or the 55 pages of the CCCI booklet, but only when we start to turn words into action.

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