The ‘no deal’ outcome of the 200 and more hours of talking between local politicians, Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O’Sullivan on the past, parades and flags has, not surprisingly, generated a measure of frustration.
The dark and dreadful decades of The Troubles cannot ever be erased and all whose lives bombs and bullets have forever changed must never be forgotten.
At the same time generations of children growing up in all six counties and untainted by a violent past, must remain uppermost in our thinking, as we endeavour to build a shared future from a divided past.
While no one is born hating another person, in divided societies, like ours, it often seems as if people learn to hate quicker than they learn to walk. Even so, if people can learn to hate, they can also be taught to love, for love as Nelson Mandela once said, ‘comes more naturally from the human heart than its opposite.’ Consequently, to prevent the toxic weeds of sectarianism spreading further than they already have, continuing generations of our families must be encouraged to ‘switch on and keep on the peaceful buttons, those marked truth, friendliness, understanding and tolerance.’
Surely the last thing anyone seriously desires is for old attitudes and hard grudges being passed on from one generation to another. Recognising how life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge should propel those of good will, who will always outnumber those of ill will, to make Northern Ireland a place where people will desist from arguing over outdated grievances and all that divides, choosing instead to forge common ground by focusing on those things that unite.
Aware that much of what we do will be influenced by the pressures of the past and the way we have lived, reinforces the requirement for everyone to genuinely commit to building a permanent peace, determined to overcome the hurdles as they emerge. Of course we must not be blind to our differences and if we cannot now resolve all that divides we must, as second best, do all that we each can to make our country a safer place for diversity.
Deliberately deciding to be a peaceful person, to ever think of others and to work always for peace will, with God Almighty’s help, progressively enable a country and its people, weary of living through a seemingly endless winter, to catch sight of the glittering sunlight of life’s July.
“Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30.
l Dr David Latimer is minister at First Derry & Monreagh Presbyterian Church