Last weekend, Archbishop Eamon Martin gave an address at the ‘Living the Agreement – Legacy Matters’ conference at Queen’s University Belfast. Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Primate emphasised the need for a full truth recovery process to ensure lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
The Archbishop of Armagh said, “Almost a thousand sectarian hate crimes continue every year; the recent inexcusable and life-changing attack on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, reminds us of where we’ve been and where we do not wish to return; the security threat is once more deemed to be ‘severe’; human rights and dignity remain threatened by ongoing paramilitary style intimidation and punishments; too many communities remain barricaded off from each other behind so-called ‘peace walls’. In communities with multiple deprivation, including the highest levels of child poverty and destitution, self-harm and suicide – those very communities which were most impacted by paramilitary activity and security force presence during the conflict – there is little to celebrate by way of a peace ‘dividend’.”
Highlighting the role of Christians in healing sectarian divisions, Archbishop Martin said, “To leave unchecked sectarianism, bigotry, hatred and violence between Christians, is a grave scandal. Christians believe Christ Jesus Himself accomplished peace … He broke down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us, reconciling us to God in one body through the cross (see Ephesians 2:14-18). Saint Paul also reminds us (2Cor 5:18-21) that, as ambassadors for Christ, we are entrusted with the work and ministry of reconciliation. The Cross confronts us to go beyond ourselves to the other, and to make sacrifices for peace, harmony, forgiveness, and healing.”
The Primate continued, “There are people on all sides who carry secrets – memories of their own involvement in the deaths or injury of thousands of men, women and children. In some cases they pulled the trigger, planted the bomb, followed orders or gave the command for summary justice, death or punishment. In other cases they willingly drove a car, kept watch, spread fear, collected money or information, sheltered perpetrators, colluded, tortured, forced confessions or covered up, destroyed evidence or intimidated witnesses. These were awful, terrible times. Shocking and horrific things happened. There must be so many people walking around today who know in their hearts that the truth and information that they have locked down inside them is capable of setting another person free, unlocking the uncertainty and grief of families. An effective truth recovery process may also allow those who participated in violent conflict to find their own inner healing and leave this world in greater peace with God and with their brothers and sisters.”
Addressing the significant anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, Archbishop Martin said, “Twenty-five years on from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement it is obvious that we are simply not managing on our own to overcome the centuries of sectarian hatred and distrust which has sparked into violence on so many occasions. Christians here must have the humility to acknowledge our human limitations, be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and cooperate with the ‘costly grace’ of God in doing something new. Perhaps in that way it will be possible to achieve conversion of even the most hardened of hearts and facilitate the speaking of truth in charity.”
To read this address in full, click here.