Haass and Hopelessness, Leadership and Local Action

I've been offline for a few days... Partly holiday... partly the limitations of my computer having blown up... and partly due to illness... But I want to come out of purdah to make a brief comment in the wake of the lack of agreement in the Haass talks last night and what that means for Northern Ireland as we enter into 2014.
I'm actually going to temper my reflections, first because I have long since learned that it is a bad idea to really let loose when I am as angry as I currently am, and second, I am telling myself that this was always an artificial deadline and it is not the end of this particular process... Indeed for a long time now the mood music suggested that the departure of Haass and O'Sullivan would not by any means be the end of the process, as the parties had booted the issue of flags further down the road in the form of yet another commission... But it now seems as if all three issues of flags, parades and the past "need more work." The cynic in me asks "How difficult is it to re-write Eames-Bradley?" But I'm not going to let the cynic in me take over... and give in to the wave of hopelessness in the wake of Dr. Haass's failure to find the silver bullet for our ills.
Instead I look forward to 2014 with hope... It can't be much worse that 2013 (Ooops... Sorry, the cynic escaped again...) No, I do genuinely hope that the discussions so far will not be in vain and that real leaders across the political spectrum will take up the challenge to forge a better future for the children of this province... A future not focussed on defending the interests of one side or the other, but on what is for the common good...
I awoke this morning, not to the depressing news on Radio Ulster, but, because my wife re-tuned my bedside radio on Christmas morning to escape the inane wittering on that channel, to Radio 4's today programme and Archbishop Justin Welby doing Thought for the Day, at the request of guest editor Antony Jenkins, the CEO of Barclays Bank. In that Thought for the Day I learned that there had been no resolution in the Haass talks, but did so against a discussion of the importance of hope and leadership in the light of, not only that "setback" here, but also the violence in Sudan and the future of the economy...
He said: 
"Leadership is the issue. Leadership must have a vision based in justice and hope, so that everyone at every level is committed to change…"
Every level...
In a subsequent interview with Antony Jenkins and presenter Sarah Montague he was asked about how what he said about hope and leadership applied to the Church of England in the face of falling numbers, and he focussed on signs of hope in the church at the local level, reaching out to address local needs, admitting that there is sometimes a disconnect between what seem to be important at a national and local level in church... 
I think the same could be said at times of all churches... and in Northern Ireland.
Frustration with what might be perceived as a lack of leadership in Stormont may be at its zenith at present (and the blame-game currently developing does not improve that perception in my eyes... though it may bolster partisan voting come the elections next year), but the responsibility to build a better future does not just lie with politicians, and our hope is not in them alone, thank God, in whom our hope is ultimately fixed.
Rather the responsibility lies with people at all levels of society, and from my perspective, particularly in the church at the local level, to work for the common good... 
As I said in an unguarded moment a few years back in a seminar I was leading on community development and the church, if the church is not making a positive difference in the local neighbourhood where it is situated it would be better switching off the lights and closing its doors... I still believe that...
Good leadership at political or a local level is about promoting positive change...
I hope and pray and resolve to work for such in 2014.
Will you join me?
Shalom

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Eshan said…
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