Conference hears Christians especially must bring healing and reconciliation to the legacy of Troubles

Over 100 people have taken part in an online theological conference on the subject of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

Leaders from the online 'Considering Grace' conference. From left to right Canon David Porter, Professor Stafford Carson, discussion moderator Karen Jardine, Considering Grace co-authors Dr Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis and Irish Council of Churches General Secretary, Dr Nicola Bradley.
Leaders from the online 'Considering Grace' conference. From left to right Canon David Porter, Professor Stafford Carson, discussion moderator Karen Jardine, Considering Grace co-authors Dr Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis and Irish Council of Churches General Secretary, Dr Nicola Bradley.

Delegates from Northern Ireland, the Republic, the US and across the UK took part in the conference yesterday, which was organised in the wake of the groundbreaking book, ‘Considering Grace - Presbyterians and the Troubles’.

Some 125 people from a range of denominations took part in an online question and answer session, which was open to the public.

Presbyterian Moderator Rt Rev Dr David Bruce welcomed that the conference, entitled ‘Considering Grace – unpacking the impact’, was able to take place.

Dr Gladys Ganiel, co-author of the book ‘Considering Grace' with Rev Tony Davidson, minister of First Armagh Presbyterian, who leads the denomination’s Considering Grace project

“While there remains little consensus around how the state and its institutions should deal with the legacy of our collective past politically, legacy is more than politics,” he said.

“While it is a sorely contested space, we should not forget that it is primarily about people and their healing, and ultimately forgiveness on a road to reconciliation, something that we all have a part to play in – especially those of us who profess a Christian faith.”

Originally planned as a regular conference in March but postponed due to the pandemic, keynote speakers included Belfast-born Chief of Staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Canon David Porter and Rev Prof Stafford Carson, Principal of PCI’s Union Theological College.

Those watching online quizzed Dr Gladys Ganiel and Dr Jamie Yohanis, the book’s authors, along with Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches, who contributed to the book.

Canon Porter said: “Nowhere is our citizenship in the Kingdom of God put to the test more than in how Jesus calls us to respond to those who do us harm.

“Those who hate, slander and malign us, who persecute, who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. “In a world where a culture of death and vengeance fuels conflict and suffering in a thousand valleys from the Hindu Kush to the Beqaa Valley, from the Jordan Valley to the Great Lakes of Africa, we are to be those who choose life. Whose impossible burden is to love, forgive and let mercy triumph over judgement.”

Former Presbyterian moderator Stafford Carson said that he believed Considering Grace was a significant contribution to the growing body of literature on The Troubles.

“In particular, by documenting the experience of Presbyterians it begins to fill a significant gap in reflections and testimonies from the Unionist/Protestant perspective. The accumulation of individual stories helps us to appreciate the complexity of the pattern of violence in Northern Ireland, the way in which individuals and families have been affected, and the multi-dimensional nature of the conflict.”

The book will stimulate the church to think about how to respond to the “deep divisions and massive injuries” in NI, he added.

For more details about the conference click here.

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