Amazing Grace: how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me

BREAKING BARRIERS... Pictured at the Amazing Grace event in Buncrana are, from left, Fr. Francis Bradley, Bishop Ken Good, John Hume, Peter McLaughlin, Dr. David Latimer, Jonathan Bell and Martin McGuinness.

BREAKING BARRIERS... Pictured at the Amazing Grace event in Buncrana are, from left, Fr. Francis Bradley, Bishop Ken Good, John Hume, Peter McLaughlin, Dr. David Latimer, Jonathan Bell and Martin McGuinness.

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A Derry church leader insists Northern Ireland no longers needs division, hatred or violence.

Dr. David Latimer, Minister of First Presbyterian Church in the city centre, says love, compassion and wisdom should be the watchwords for the future.

He was speaking following a recent event in the Co. Donegal seaside town of Buncrana which was attended by representatives of different traditions across the North.

The ‘Amazing Grace’ viewing platform has been created as part of the ‘Amazing Grace Heritage Experience’.

John Newton was inspired to write ‘Amazing Grace’ after he had taken refuge, in Lough Swilly, from a violent storm in the Atlantic Ocean in 1748.

David Latimer, who was at the event, says it saw “jurisdictional, political and religious barriers transcended for a brief period.”

“We were permitted a glimpse of what is doable despite the twists and turns associated with shaping a reconciled shared future,” he added.

“Northern Ireland no longer needs division or hatred or violence. More than anything else Northern Ireland, from top to bottom, needs love, compassion and wisdom.

“More than ever before, people of all faiths and none need to dedicate themselves to something the ancient Greeks long ago wrote about and that was, ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world.’

Dr. Latimer says divisive issues such as emblems, flags, marches, the past and commemorating the dead all have the potential to “steer a fledgling peace process onto the rocks”.

“But, having come so far in a relatively short period, this cannot be allowed to happen.

“George Bernard Shaw summed up an approach to life when he wrote, ‘other people see things and say why; but I dream things that never were and say why not?’.”

David Latimer added: “Staying married to the status quo is comforting; settling for simple answers is enticing; going with the flow is easy but inadequate to transform the present period of calm into permanent peace.

“What worked yesterday could very well be tomorrow’s recipe for disaster. Therefore, to keep the vision of a better shared future alive, we must give ourselves permission to go in a different direction, to break new ground and to turn, not on one another or from one another, but towards one another.

“Ecclesiastes informs us, ‘two people are better off than one for they can help each other succeed… three are even better.’ “Experiencing ourselves in relationship and not out, attempting to get to know people from ‘the other’ side and learning to live better together are clearly prudent choices for people of all ages, creeds and cultures to weave into their daily routine.

“Above all else and for as long as we live, we must join our efforts to build an unshakable foundation for a culture of peace so our children’s world will be better than ours and the world of their children even better.”