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PEACE EDUCATION AND THE NORTHERN IRISH CONFLICT André Lascaris Dominican Theological Center, Nijmegen The Northern Irish conflict can be interpreted as an anachronism. This is true in many aspects. However, in the last ten years we were confronted with many "anachronistic" conflicts: in former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, Algeria, Colombia, and Afghanistan, to mention only some. In our postmodern times the division of the world into two rather neat halves with two centers of power has gone, the nation state is weakening and in many societies the social glue seems to be losing its cohesive force. We have to live together in pluralistic societies in which we are all a minority at times. Wars between states become less likely, butcivil wars are on the increase. Terrorism becomes a power against which the traditional armies and their weapons are quite useless in spite of many technological developments. The ancient laws concerningthe protection of women and children in wartime are becoming obsolete. Women are invited to get involved in the armed forces. The child soldier is a well-known phenomenon. In our western society a child's world, which exists in isolation from the adult world, is no longer a possibility. Some lessons learned in dealing with theNorthern Irish conflict might turn out to be worthwhile taking up in other situations. In this essay, I reflect with the help ofthe mimetic theory on peace work done by some Dutch people on behalfofNorthern Ireland between 1973 and 1992. The Northern Irish conflict as such is not the subject ofthis paper; the mimetic interpretation of this conflict was admirably covered by people such as Duncan Morrow and the late Frank Wright to which I refer the reader in my bibliography. I will concentrate on the educational aspects ofDutch peace work done in the Northern Irish context. Here it suffices to say that the 136André Lascaris Northern Irish conflict is not a religious one, though religious labels are being used. It is aconflict between two cultures, an Irish one and an AngloSaxon or British one. I. Dutch peace work on behalf ofNorthern Ireland A. A short history In 1973 I was invited to become a member of staff of a conference for influential Northern Irishmen in the Netherlands. Glenn Williams, then secretary general of the KEK (Conference of European Churches) had asked the Dutch Council ofChurches whether it could do something on behalf of Northern Ireland. After some consultation Williams asked the Dutch adult education center 'De Haaf to accommodate "mixed Roman Catholic and Protestant Irish groups in a quiet and spiritual atmosphere." The director of this center, Aat van Rhijn, a Presbyterian minister, asked me to participate in the conference because he wanted a Catholic priest to make the Roman Catholic Northern Irishmen feel represented on the staff. A laywoman, Hermine Keuning, was the third member of the staff. The Dutch Reformed Church provided money. In April 1973 a visit was made to Belfast and contact was established with the Irish Council ofChurches; it soon became our Northern Irish counterpart. In Septembera firstconference was held, quickly followed by a second one. From participants of the first conference a new request for a conference was made and after this one even more conferences were organized, altogether 18 between 1973 and 1983. We worked with neighborhood groups, politicians, paramilitaries, social workers, police officers, adult educators, social workers, journalists and editors, Catholic and Protestant clergymen. In the conferences ofthe protestant politicians and the clergy it was not possible to have a mixed group; we had to be content with having some either Catholic or Protestant "observers" at the conference. Inthe late seventiesthesecurity situation inNorthern Ireland improved. The necessity oftraveling to the Netherlands to have a conference became less evident. Because our work remained in demand, we organized weekends in Northern Ireland itself from 1981 onwards, mainly in Corrymeela, an ecumenical adult education center near Ballycastle. Money was coming from several sources, but mainly from the Dutch Reformed Church. To handle the money well we decided in 1975 to become a trust: the "Dutch Northern Irish Advisory Committee." It was typical ofthis trustthat its constitution stipulated that no conference or any Peace Education andthe Northern Irish Conflict137 other activity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 135-150
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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