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Safety promoting Peace?

Peace vs. Safety
By Joan Fiesta

According to the Merriam-Webster onlinedictionary, the definitions of Peace and Safety are:
Peace:  noun \ˈpēs\

a state of tranquility or quiet: as
a: freedom from civil disturbance
b: a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom <a breach of the peace>

freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions

harmony in personal relations

a: a state or period of mutual concord between governments
b: a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity

—used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

Safety noun \ˈsāf-tē\
the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss

a device (as on a weapon or a machine) designed to prevent inadvertent or hazardous operation

a (1): a situation in football in which a member of the offensive team is tackled behind its own goal line that counts two points for the defensive team (2): a member of a defensive backfield in football who occupies the deepest position in order to receive a kick, defend against a forward pass, or stop a ballcarrier
b: a billiard shot made with no attempt to score or so as to leave the balls in an unfavorable position for the opponent
c: base hit 

(I’ve included the American football definitions, just for a wee bit of fun before I get heavy into the blog…)
My curiosity has been piqued about safety in an area where there is agreed-upon absence of violence (peace) to solve the conflict caused by the deep, historic divisions.  The definition of peace that Merriam-Webster gives is quite a nice group of things to shoot for, especially the numbers 2 and 3.  Those two definitions take time, education, exposure to other points of view, and a level of inherent risk in a sectarian society, especially one that is only recently moving away from violence as a way for one side or another to gain power.   

In our trip to Belfast, we had two guides.  Mark is a former army soldier from a Protestant neighborhood and Peadar is a Republican and former paramilitary combatant.  They separately took us into Catholic and Protestant areas separated by a “Peace Wall.” 
Prior to ever signing up for this course, I read the book, Policing Ireland’s Twisted History by Alan M. Wilson, a former engineer and policeman and native of Belfast.  He relayed that in between the years of 1965 and 1969 he used to walk up Springfield Road in the “mixed” neighborhood that bordered the Protestant Shankill Road neighborhood and the Catholic Falls area.  Our tour guide, Mark, reinforced this bit of history, stating that there were cross roads to Springfield Road and the neighborhood had Protestants and Catholics.  Mark then explained that when The Troubles started in 1969, the British Army brought out razor wire and separated the two neighborhoods for “safety,” likely because they determined that the two groups could not mix.

After the Peace Agreement of 1998 it was easier to employ a “safe” environment with more Peace Walls.  These walls started out as concrete slabs that stood approximately 10-feet tall.  These were not sufficient to keep petrol bombs (Molotov Cocktails) from being indiscriminately tossed over from one neighborhood to another.  So, the Peace Wall got an addition of a tall corrugated wall on top of the concrete slabs.  Those were fine until people figured out that they could ride on the top of a bus or a truck and chuck an improvised explosive device over the top.  So, the builders added on another piece of steel mesh that, so far, has managed to protect people on both sides from those who wished to do them harm.
Wall and gate
Mark pointed out a corrugated piece of the wall that was silver in color and probably 20’ in width.  It was where a petrol bomb hit.  Fortunately it hit the wall and not a Catholic person on the other side.  Mark went on to point out large steel blast gates on either end of the wall that are remotely locked at 7:00 each morning and re-opened at 7:00 each morning.  They are not opened for emergencies.  If someone has a heart attack on Springfield Road, the ambulance has to wend its way through a neighborhood rather than using the most direct route.  A short trip to the hospital prior to 7:00 p.m. from this neighborhood might equal ½ mile.  If a child in the Shankill neighborhood gets sick 7:00 p.m., the drive to the closest hospital ends up being 4.8 miles in order to get around the wall. 

Just my own asthetic opinion: the walls are ugly.  They are foreboding.  They are scary.  I felt closed in.
I would not want to live near one.  But I have not been exposed over and over to violent acts in or near my own home.  Mark relayed the story of an 83-year old Protestant woman who, over the periods of violence, had the experiences of finding bodies in her yard.  One body had five bullets in the head and another was a man whose throat was slashed.  To her, the wall is a security blanket.  She wants it to stay up.  Both sides are weary of the violent acts and they probably cherish the idea that no one can indiscriminately shoot into their neighborhood or toss a petrol bomb onto their lawn.  This lack of violence may equal Definition 1(a) of Peace, but is more appropriately covered by Definitions 1 and 2 of Safety.  The wall stops harm and acts like the safety button on a gun. 

According to Professor Kelleher, 40 of these walls were erected after the Peace Agreement.  The one we looked at stood at 45.1' tall and runs 1.2 km between these two neighborhoods.  There are ways to get around the wall, so those who choose to do harm to another in one of these neighborhoods has to make tactical plans to do the act of violence and risk being caught.  The quick, indiscriminate acts are not happening.  There is safety.

But the separation hinders people from achieving an interconnectedness with a person from the other side.  The wall may promote Safety, but it is as strong against Definitions 2 and 3 of Peace as they are against indiscriminate acts of violence.  They create a physical environment where people have to go further in order to reach harmony in their relationships with those from the other side.

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