From Africa to Ireland – A Global Reimagining of Christian Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland
The current context, politically and in community, is palpably defined by impasse & apathy. Church and community practitioners are convinced that the feeling of being “stuck” is contributing to inertia at political and community levels. Thrive Ireland felt that a new impetus was required if we were to even begin to move towards peace and reconciliation and we were convinced that global partnership could make a significant contribution to breaking the impasse.
So a Conference was held on Thursday 28th February 2019 at the Dunsilly Hotel in Antrim, funded by the Community Relations Council. It created a unique opportunity to look at peacebuilding and nation building best practices from Rwanda and Zimbabwe and learn from others who have sought to bring solutions to seemingly impossible situations.
We wanted to enable cross cultural learning through listening to stories of courage and creativity and enable Church leaders and practitioners from across Ireland to reflect on how these lessons can be incorporated into the context of Northern Ireland. A number of blogs and the feedback forms showed that we are indeed stimulating dialogue and new ideas.
The International keynote speakers were Christophe Mbonyingabo from Rwanda, the founder and executive Director of CARSA (Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance). He took us through the work of different programs which were developed to respond to the post genocide reconciliation including seeking to foster reconciled relationships between genocide survivors and their direct perpetrators. Moving stories of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Our second speaker was Rev. Useni Sibanda, the Director of Zimbabwe Christian Alliance. This Network has thousands of members, Christians committed to Nation building and transformation. Their work is focused on empowering church leaders and the local churches to be transformative agents to influence policies, governance and to transform conflict. Useni said, “My passion is to awaken the church and Christian community to be salt and light and therefore be witnesses for the kingdom. We have to speak on behalf of the vulnerable members of our communities and be practical agents of transformation.”
Local speakers included Rev Dr. Lesley Carroll, recently appointed Prison Ombudsman and Derek Poole and the workshop themes included: Advocacy and Nation Building A Zimbabwe perspective. Forgiveness – A Rwandan Perspective, The church and Nation building and Global learning and the primacy of relationship.