Hello again!! This is Andrew here, writing another blog… I know, not this guy again… 🙂 I was sitting in the office reflecting with my coworker Joanne about a residential we went on last month with our Champions 4 Peace and I thought I should write a blog about it!
March 17th is St. Patrick’s day. For me, it was very special because it was the first time I experienced St. Patrick’s day outside of the U.S.A., let alone, in Northern Ireland. For those of you who aren’t familiar with St. Patrick’s day in America, it is largely open to all types of people. It is a day for all people to have mostly thoughtless fun with friends and/or family. In the U.S. St. Patrick’s day is often celebrated by Irish Americans and non-Irish Americans, who seem to have an idea about Irish culture. In reality, much of the images and symbols seen around St. Patrick’s day in the U.S. are mostly inaccurate stereotypes, from the food they eat to the activities they take part in.
St. Patricks Parade in Belfast city Centre
Stained windows within cathedral
PeacePlayers organized a residential the week after St. Patrick’s day to take our Champions 4 Peace on a weekend trip where we would explore St. Patrick’s day and how we could make it more inclusive for everyone. The weekend began with a trip to Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, the site where St. Patrick is buried. We walked around, took pictures and explored the cathedral inside and out. The cathedral had a bunch of fun and interesting facts about St. Patrick and his significance. I read that St.Patrick was originally from Wales and that he was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was 16! I even learned that the legend of how St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland was just a myth! 🙂
After the cathedral, we all went to our residential site in Newcastle. While there, we explored in more detail the history and significance of St. Patrick’s day. To witness Protestant and Catholic participants cooperating and discussing these topics was truly amazing to witness. The conversation began very light (i.e. history and stereotypes of the holiday), and as the weekend progressed we jumped into more of the deep underlying controversies of the holiday. The participants discussed whether or not they felt comfortable or safe celebrating St. Patrick’s day and why they felt that way. Again, to hear a Protestant youth express his/her feelings openly and not be judged by the other side of the community was extremely humbling. I am constantly reminded how amazing working for PeacePlayers really is.
During the last day of the residential, the participants were asked to explore how they could actively work to make St. Patrick’s day more inclusive for all people in Northern Ireland. They came up with the idea of PeacePlayers hosting a St. Patrick’s day event for both communities to come together and spend time together. Even though it would be a PeacePlayers event, they expressed how providing an alternative narrative to the typical tension surrounding St. Patrick’s day would be really helpful. In the last hour, they established a committee (1 Protestant and 1 Catholic leader) to help create/organise an inclusive party for next year’s St. Patrick’s day but also for the 12th of July!
These young people continue to impress me! Peace building is often a slow and lethargic process, but it is these moments that give you hope for a better future!
St. Patrick’s tomb