April 9, 2013
Peacemaking Travel Study Seminar in Northern Ireland: Reconciliation in the Celtic Context
Day 7: Exploring the traumatic aftermath of violence
View along Ireland's northeast coastline on the way to Corrymeela
Post by Andy Gans, pastor of Fort King Presbyterian Church in Ocala, FL
Today was a wave of emotion for many of us as we spoke with some victims of the violence that has taken place over the past years.
Our first stop was the WAVE (Widows Against Violence Empowered) Trauma Center. The center works with victims of the conflict, both individuals and the society. They are a cross community volunteer organization founded in 1991 that offers care and support to anyone bereaved or traumatized as a result of the Troubles. One of those victims, Alex, shared with us his horrific story. Alex was a cab driver who was targeted by a para military car bomb. The bomb was a case of mistaken identity but Alex was still severely wounded. He was blown from the car and landed on the sidewalk. Alex lost one of his legs and has a severely damaged right leg. Those are the visible scars, there are much deeper wounds that can't be seen. WAVE has helped, and continues to help, Alex heal psychologically and has given him hope in this life long healing process.
We then visited a local Presbyterian church that is located in between a Catholic/Nationalist neighborhood and a Protestant/ Loyalist neighborhood. This church works with several other Protestant and Catholic congregations to work for peace and reconciliation between the factions. These discussions have come at a cost, the church sanctuary was totally burned. The good news out of all of this is that the churches continue to work together in the neighborhoods and great reconciliation is happening.
Our journey then carried us away from Belfast and up the beautiful east coast of Ireland to our next stop, Corrymeela. We saw plenty of sheep, beautiful green hillsides, and an awe inspiring coast line. Tomorrow we will travel to Derry, the site of the Blood Sunday Massacre.
May your day be filled with peace