Peace means changing the way we live

Rev Dr. David Latimer.
Rev Dr. David Latimer.

Rev. David Latimer says Northern Ireland has turned a corner.

Yet, in spite of improvements and progress, if peace is to reign from north to south and from east to west, not one person, regardless of their age, creed or culture, can afford to be either apathetic or satisfied with attempts to shape a future that will be different to the past.

Memories of death and destruction remain vivid in the minds of so many from both traditions.

Moreover, the disposition to point an accusing finger of blame and to indulge in petty criticism is widespread while the old foe of sectarianism remains rampant across the country.

Being asked to build relationships with people who may have been part of a process through which valued family members were injured or killed, and to work in some kind of trusting relationship with a perceived enemy, is proving to be a major stumbling block - and not just in communities living cheek by jowl but also for elected politicians.

However, the inevitable truth that must be recovered around our deeply divided country is, regardless who resents whom and who holds bitterness against whom, unless the evil cycle of anger, hatred and toughness is broken, we shall all be proved again unteachable and have to go and try to learn once more in the school of conflict!

The key is surely to change the way we live, not in capitulation ”to them” or in fear, intimidation or surrender ”to them’, but in adjustment to the ways of God, who is the Maker of our bodies and Lover of our souls!

What would it look like to change the way we live? What would it mean to trade the love of power for the power of love?

It would be a grave error to conclude these are topics restricted to worshippers in chapels, churches and mission halls.

These are issues for the entire population to seriously contemplate.

Releasing the need to hate and harbour division, divesting ourselves of bitterness and embedding the country with acts of goodness and deeds of kindness, are utterly imperative for every citizen if Northern Ireland is to change from a dog eat dog world to a dog forgive dog world and from an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth world to a lion lie down with the lamb world. This may sound like a dream of a remote and unknown future. But life is not worth living without a dream and without working to make that dream a reality.

Reverend David Latimer is Minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church, Magazine Street, Derry.