From Africa to Ireland: A Global Reimagining of Christian Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, David and Holly, attended Thrive Ireland’s conference, ‘From Africa to Ireland: a global reimagining of Christian peacebuilding in Northern Ireland’. This conference drew comparisons between Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Rwanda; three nations united by their tragic, and violent pasts. However, it also focused upon the hope of these nations, and how Northern Ireland can learn from Church based initiatives from these countries.

Below, Holly shares some thoughts from the conference:

‘Yesterday, I was struck by the encouraging stories of hope by Christophe Mbonyingabo and Rev. Useni Sibanda. Their stories were hard hitting, and thought provoking, which left me with two main observations.

The Importance of Forgiveness

Firstly, the importance of forgiveness. Christoph used a physical illustration of a victim and perpetrator being physically bound to each other, to highlight they will always be connected to one another due to the hurt and pain that was caused. The victim may remain burdened by this hurt, and may only be fully released once they let go, by binding their burdens to God not the perpetrator. Forgiveness can help to ease our burdens, and in doing so, we entrust God with the lives of those who have wronged our communities and us. To hear of the stories in reconciliation in Rwanda, even in the aftermath of a genocide where 1 million people were killed in 100 days in a country of 8 million people, led to me to think of the wonderful opportunities the Church in Northern Ireland has to operate in this space.

Peacebuilding and Reconciliation Initiatives

Secondly, the peacebuilding and reconciliation initiatives in Rwanda were grounded in programmes like the ‘Cow for Peace’. This entails a cow being shared by a survivor of the genocide, and the perpetrator, and the two families working together to care for the animal. They share any calves, milk and fertiliser. Ultimately it is when both individuals work together to look after the cow that they will both flourish. A stark image that remains in my mind was a man and woman, the perpetrator and victim, working together on this initiative. They successfully looked after the animal together, and when they were doing so, their children played together in one another’s homes. This cooperation and harmony challenged me in thinking how the Church here can implement initiatives like this and what this would look like in Northern Ireland.

Imagine the movement of change that we would experience here, if our Churches engaged with and prayed for the peace building and reconciliations in place (in addition to the expansion of pre-existing, and the creation of new ones). We would see peace building and restoration on a level like never before, and the hearts and lives of individuals and communities throughout Northern Ireland would be forever changed.