Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Northern Ireland Tastes the Promise of Peace

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Northern Ireland Tastes the Promise of Peace

Article excerpt

For 30 Christmases, I and so many others in Northern Ireland have prayed for a peaceful New Year. And for three decades, the din of war has drowned out the softer voices of reason and compromise. But today I hear something new and heartening: the first sounds of a real peace.

As a columnist for a newspaper here, I have advocated nonviolent ways to settle differences. As a reporter, I've recorded the tears, the distress, and the horror of the conflict. It has not been easy to keep faith in the better way during the dark years, when peace was "dropping slow," as Yeats said - or not dropping at all.

But today people here feel a sense of wonder. A fragile peace has been made. It is a surprise, a relief. It arrives with a niggling worry that it may not last and a fervent hope that it will.

My mind goes back to the city of Londonderry and a particular December. My editor asked me to search out and record any hints of Christmas peace in that beautiful but scarred city. Sadly, I found no real peace in that place of long memories of past wrongs.

Instead, I filed a story about a forlorn Christmas tree shining bravely in the square as children sang ancient carols that seemed to evaporate in the cold night air. At a time of terrorist bombs, murders, and reprisals, the lights on this and other Christmas trees silently condemned the worst of human behavior in what should be a season of goodwill.

I recall my native village of Bessbrook, nestled in the rolling green countryside near the border with the Irish Republic. My boyhood memories are of simplicity, camaraderie, and a peaceful rural life. Each Christmas morning I would arise before dawn to walk through the village by flashlight, singing carols with others while lights in houses twinkled a warm message.

But even there, later, reprisal killings stunned the community. …

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