Why Global Peacebuilding?

The Bible tells us that God created the world in love, for His pleasure. He ensured that every part of it was good (Genesis 1 & 2). God created human beings to live in a loving relationship with Him, and with each other, and he gave them the responsibility of caring for his creation. (Genesis 2. 15).

But the relationship between God, humans and the rest of creation were broken when people sinned and turned away from God. (Genesis 3).

Therefore, the root causes of poverty and conflict are the broken relationships between us and God, us and ourselves, us and each other and us and creation.

However, the Bible tells us that God wants to restore relationships, because he loves us and wants all of creation to be good once again. (Roman’s 8. 18 -25) Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made restored relationships and a new creation possible. (Luke 4. 16-21, John 10. 10, Col 1. 15-20.)

The current context in Northern Ireland, politically and in community is palpably defined by impasse, apathy and inertia. There is a real sense among active church and community practitioners that the Northern Ireland situation has become “stuck”. As one church leader said, “We can’t get there from here”. In other words, the goal of peace and reconciliation needs a new impetus and it is our conviction that this is to be found through global partnership.

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Twenty years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, life in Northern Ireland has improved considerably. Consequently, a return to the ethno-political conflict of the past is for most people unimaginable. However, what has remained stubbornly intact is the divisive legacy of sectarianism; the socio-economic neglect in communities most affected by the conflict; the negative presence of paramilitaries; and a political inertia that has paralysed any reconciliation policy from our Devolved Government. The current environment created by Brexit is also contributing to the tensions within the political sphere and at community level. We have achieved an internationally recognised peace process but we have not ‘relationally’ made peace. We remain demographically divided, unreconciled in our experiences of hurt, unable at political and community level to affirm a reconciliation policy, and in general we have settled for ‘tolerance’ as the social ethic for building a shared future. However, for the creation of an inclusive and diverse community, tolerance is not enough. For a vision of the common good necessitates not just the values of rights legislation but also the virtues of human relationships in which meaningful encounter and vulnerable dialogue are possible. A de facto policy of ‘together – apart’ falls short of a hoped for generous and thriving society. This is not to diminish the value and necessity of human rights and we affirm good legislation that facilitates inclusion, diversity and equality. However, these are primarily functional and legislative mechanisms. Thrive Ireland’s programme will build on these with an emphasis on innovative peacebuilding practice through, global learning and the gospel imperative of the primacy of relationships as the catalyst that animates civic society.

Thrive Ireland was birthed out of Tearfund and staff from Thrive Ireland have had the privilege of travelling widely within South and East Africa and journeying alongside a group of Christian Leaders, with ministries of peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict.

Staff and in turn board members were re-energised and envisioned from the encounter, courage and creativity of the Rwandan, Congolese, South Sudanese, Kenyian and Zimbabwean experience in particular. The inspiration for global learning has come from Thrive Ireland’s staff directly experiencing the transformative learning from these contexts.

This experience clearly reinforced our understanding that community relations and community development need to go hand in hand, not try to be dealt with separately. Our Church Community Transformation programme and our global peacebuilding therefore work together as we seek to enable churches to bring transformation to the local community around them.

Previous Conferences

In 2018 and 2019 Thrive Ireland was awarded funding from the Community Relations Council of Northern Ireland to run conferences bringing global learning to the Church in Ireland.

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 practice from Rwanda and Zimbabwe and learn from others who have sought to bring solutions to seemingly impossible situations.

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    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 Prisoner 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.

     

Encounter Series

Webinar 1. Remembering and Memorial
Webinar 2. Grief and Forgiveness.
Webinar 3. Social and Personal Responsibility.

Global lessons for peace and Nation building for the church in Northern Ireland

Following the successful conference “From Africa to Ireland”, Thrive Ireland facilitated an innovative event on the themes of peacebuilding, advocacy and Nation building.

The Conference explored a unique contribution from the Zimbabwean churches. For 10 years they have developed a model of biblical witness into the social and political environment which has been courageous and prophetic.

The conference developed insight, inspiration and practical learning for churches in Northern Ireland through this unique opportunity for cross cultural learning.

Keynote Speakers:
The conference themes:
  • Advocacy and nation building – a Zimbabwean Perspective
  • The Churches role in Nation Building
  • Beyond tribal voting – Lessons from Zimbabwe
  • The Church on the streets

Resources

Lessons from Rwanda

Biblical Reflections for the Church in Northern Ireland.

Thrive Ireland in partnership with Contemporary Christianity produced a peace and reconciliation resource for churches in Northern Ireland. The material is based on the Rwandan churches response to the need for post- conflict National healing following the Genocide. The resource is designed to facilitate biblical reflection with Christians to consider how the Rwandan experience might inspire and inform our commitment to peace building.

Introduction

In 1994 just under one million Rwandans were murdered during 100 days of sectarian slaughter. Rwanda is considered to be one of the most ‘Christian’ countries in Africa.

In the shadow of this Genocide the Rwandan Church continues to wrestle with the traumatic legacy of the killing while confronting its own complicity in the causes and consequence of tribal division. This requires difficult conversations about history, culture, politics and religion and a willingness to question neglected or distorted Biblical themes. Rwandan Christians acknowledge that “judgement begins with the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17) and that Repentance is a prerequisite for the Church’s integrity and the recovery of an authentic witness to Jesus Christ. 

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In this process of honesty and confession there is much to be considered but essential to the need for national unity and healing are the Christian imperatives of Forgiveness, Justice, Reconciliation and Repentance. It is these priorities that are explored in this resource.

However, this resource is not for the Church in Rwanda but for Evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland. For it is precisely because the Rwandan Church has faced up to its role in sectarian violence and its infidelity to the Gospel that we can listen to their learning and hear God speak to us through their tested faith. For if, in the most murderous of circumstances, our Rwandan brothers and sisters in Christ can explore the legacy of hate and hurt, then humility demands that we hear the Word of God from their experience.

This booklet sets out a basic framework to explore and action the Rwandan learning in the context of Northern Ireland. However, it is not a self-sufficient guide and the course should be directed by a trained Thrive Ireland facilitator. The four essential themes are designed to be biblically explored, generously discussed and with opportunities for interactive learning. Most importantly, it is a resource to be prayerfully considered.

We are grateful to the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council for their generous funding of this resource; and our partner, Contemporary Christianity (formerly ECONI), for their enthusiastic support and the use of their archive material. Also, we thank the Board of Thrive Ireland and the project Advisory Group for their time and wisdom. And in particular, we are indebted to Emmanuel Murangera for the translation of original material used with the Rwandan churches and the many Rwandan friends and partners whose life and faith is the living witness to the Christian hope explored in this resource.

If you are interested in enabling your church to use this resource then please contact us.

Contact

  • info@thriveireland.org
  • (+44) 28 9073 0068
    (+44) 7749 056403
  • 241 Newtownards Road
    Belfast BT4 1AF