BBC Radio 4:Chine McDonald - 10/04/2018


A friend of mine was eight years old when an IRA bomb ripped through the heart of Coleraine, where she lived. I still remember how she desCRIbed the house shaking as she and her family watched the explosion and the town in flames from their bedroom windows.

Walking through the regenerated Titanic Quarter in Belfast as I was a few months ago, it is I found it almost impossible to believe that this vibrant, beautiful place was the location of such conflict for so many people. For those my age, it is unimaginable to think how they could have faced such horrors. The current state of play might make it easy for those like myself who never lived through the violence to forget the Troubles of yesterday.

But we should never forget.

Days like today, therefore, in which we mark 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, are vitally important.

The historic accord brought to an end three decades of sectarian violence in the region, and was the beginning of much more peaceful days.

Brian Friel in his play Translations says: “To remember everything is a form of madness.” And while this is true, remembering something of what has gone before is an important step in moving forward. The current political climate in Northern Ireland and decisions around the UK’s relationship with the European Union are reminders that the peace that has been achieved is a fragile one. It needs continual work.

A collective looking back, staring the sins of the past in the face, is a way to ensure nothing like this happens again.

This ritual of corporate commemoration is currently taking place in Rwanda, where over the weekend, the nation remembered the start of the 100 days of genocide which followed the failed Arusha Accords – an attempted peace agreement. Up to a million Tutsi were massacred in the conflict that began on the 7th of April 1994. Now, every year the genocide is marked by two public holidays, beginning with Kwibuka, which translates as ‘Remembrance’. Rwandans are currently in the official week of mourning known as Icyunamo before concluding the period on Liberation Day on the 4th of July.

Remembrance enables us to take a step back in order to reimagine a better future.

At the Last Supper, Jesus asks his followers to take part in a ritual of bread and wine in remembrance of him.

The Holy Eucharist is a continual ‘going back’ in order to go forward – a ritual that takes place in order that a more positive future can be achieved.

It is in going back, remembering and learning from the sins of the past, that humanity’s future can be one in which we all flourish.

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