by Shelley Svedahl
The tour of Belfast was balanced and fair: Pady toured us around the Nationalist area and Mark was our guide on the Loyalist ‘side’.
At the end of Pady’s tour we were walking through the Nationalist cemetery and the weight of the sight of the dates on the graves hung heavy on my mind. There was a suffocating oppression of grief and sorrow because so many died so recently. We honour a day of Remembrance on November 11 in Canada – but this is recent history.
When we began the guided tour with Mark, many of us were still pretty numb from the experiences with Pady. Mark was very loud and his mannerisms reminded me of a football coach preparing his team in a pre-game talk. The question lingering in my mind was “Is this going to be confrontational?” Then I watched carefully and listened with my ears, eyes and heart. I dismissed the volume and tuned in to closely.
Just as we learned in the storytelling process where beads were used as a symbol to unravel the threads of our lives, today we needed to employ those skills of listening and understanding.
Mark sat while Sean drove the bus down the narrow streets and across to the other side. Quietly, when he was ‘off-air’ he told Sean that he was supposed to have a tour at 4:30 today. He shook his head and said it had been cancelled. He said the tour at 9:00 the following day had also been cancelled. They discussed the recent incidents concerning the flag demonstrations in Belfast. There were more protests yesterday and more planned for this evening. That’s when he said this: “And these are supposed to be my people.”
Mark ended his tour by saying “We’ve got to make it [peace] work for the sake of our children’s future.”
“The peace process stays in place and moves us forward.”
“We can only do it together and we can not give these [dissonant loyalists and republicans] evil men any support.”
Mark sounded gruff but he was clearly struggling in his own way. The same was true for Pady. Both had seen death and destruction - a slaughtering of innocence.
There is a peace agreement and a cease fire. The general working class people don’t want to see any more people killed. They do not support the dissonant loyalists and republicans. The message was clear. “Go away and leave us alone.”
Hearing these stories is part of the process of humanizing the enemy.
“It’s a long road to peace and there’s no turning back.” Eamon Baker.
It’s not we/they – it’s us. We are all stakeholders. We are here now and we have a role to play in helping the peace process. We can play a role of listening and withholding judgment. We can be ambassadors to help facilitate peace. As Dr. C shared yesterday, “We need to understand how to use communications in the [peace] process. It needs to happen from the bottom up and not the top down.”