Defeating the Divide

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

They huddled under umbrellas which couldn’t seem to fend off the swirling rain as they stood beside a Belfast round-about and sang Christmas carols.  Cars swished past them.  Takeaways were ordered and collected in the chip shop opposite.  Life seemed to pass them by.  It was a moment that could so easily have been missed.

ArdoyneThis was no slick event, no award-winning performance, no pre-Christmas publicity stunt.  This was about ordinary people who live on a patch of north Belfast ground declaring a different future over a troubled area.  As they gathered at Ardoyne round-about for the area’s first of its kind cross-community carol service, you knew that this was a moment so much bigger than itself.  You felt that history should be recording this moment.

We all know the scenes that Ardoyne round-about is famous for. Violence and hatred have tagged this place for too long.  And yet this Christmas local church leaders took the lead.  They made the call to host a carol service and they urged and inspired their communities to be a part of it.

Their vision was to send out a bold statement of togetherness and hope for a future where unity will win.  It’s a dream which shouldn’t have to be bold and shouldn’t actually even have to be a dream – and one day maybe it will be normality for the communities clustered around that round-about.

But for now steps forward have been taken; moves towards a new future which ordinary radicals within these communities are trying to paint.  It’s their friendships, their gestures, their acts of kindness, their steps across the divide that will defeat the divide.  For the Garys, the Alberts, the Annes, the Marys, the Kens, the Margarets, the Gerrys, the Andys and the Normans – their alternative stories are changing the narrative of this hope-hungry place.

*image by Dean Molyneaux

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