NORTH BELFAST is sadly expert at cleaning up after a riot. By mid-morning on September 4th, following several nights of petrol-bombing and brick-throwing in which more than 60 police officers were injured, the streets were back to normal. Only the odd pile of rubble, and the stories of shaken residents, remained to suggest anything was amiss. Yet the riots have revealed deep problems in Northern Ireland which cannot be so easily scrubbed away.
In summers past fire was almost as common as rain. The annual “marching season”, which is at once a celebration of Protestant history and an opportunity to stake out sectarian turf, was frequently accompanied by violence. But the streets had gradually quietened. The most controversial Protestant parades were banned or rerouted, or allowed passage following discussions with Catholic residents. Dozens of flashpoints had dwindled to just a few. An annual riot in Ardoyne, in north Belfast, has taken on something of a ritual character and is not particularly injurious. But the city’s residents have now concocted an entirely new flashpoint.
In July a loyalist marching band on a normally uncontroversial route stopped outside a Catholic church close to central Belfast and struck up the Beach Boys’ tune “Sloop John B”. This has un-Californian connotations in the province. Scottish sectarians have reworked the song into an anti-Catholic anthem (sample line: “The famine’s over, why don’t you go home”) which some bystanders in Belfast began to sing. An amateur cameraman captured the performance, and the footage ended up on YouTube. The Parades Commission promptly instructed bands not to play music outside the church. Some bands angrily defied the ban. Then a Republican parade brought loyalists onto the streets. Both Catholics and Protestants have attacked the police and each other.
Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist first minister, and Martin McGuinness, his Sinn Fein deputy, are urgently trying to resolve the issue of who can march where and how before September 29th, when a large loyalist march is scheduled to pass the church. Although the offending loyalist bands have been broadly condemned, the politicians have not come off well either. It is sometimes said that the executive has a “too difficult” file in which knotty issues are crammed—not just the regulation of parades but the promotion of mixed Catholic-Protestant schools, for example. Attempts to resolve the parades issue came to a shuddering halt two years ago when the Orange Order, the main marching organisation, rejected a plan put forward by Mr McGuinness and Mr Robinson. This summer’s riots show that problems filed are not problems forgotten.
These days Catholic and Protestant politicians get along well. Sectarian killings have almost disappeared. But the anger on the streets remains. Traditionally it was Belfast Catholics who complained about inequality and discrimination. Legislation and the peace process have improved their lot, but left a residue of surly loyalist resentment. Walk the streets of Protestant north Belfast now, and it is not difficult to find people who complain that the Catholics are “getting everything they want” and denying Protestants their history. That sense of victimhood can be dangerous.
From The Economist, HERE.
On Sunday, July 8, 2012 there will be a joint commissioning service for the summer mission trips to Northern Ireland for FUSED and to Uganda for work at New Beginnings in Uganda. Please join us at 7:30 at Southland Christian Church (right after the 608 service) in Room E109 (to the right of the service center) to celebrate and commission both teams.
Children at New Beginnings
FUSED Staff and Volunteers
For the eighth year, a team of students from Lexington (made up of high school students, young adults and 608 and CSF types) will work in and around Newcastle, a town of 4,000 or so that sees its population more than double in the summer with vacationers from Belfast and other nearby communities.
We will join forces with nearly 30 workers from local churches (mostly young adults and students from Baptist, Presbyterian, Brethren and Elim churches) to do morning, afternoon and evening programs for all ages—from elementary to middle school to high school—as well as young adults and families. We usually see over 200 students in the program. The combined team will live in community at Ardaluin House for the two weeks and meals will either be “self-catered” or be provided by the local church.
The dual goals of this work is to provide discipleship to young people and additionally do outreach to youth, adults and families throughout the Newcastle area. In a country torn by denominational divisions and other political and economic issues, it is unprecedented to see a number of local congregations come together as one body, as the church, to do a program of this type. It is also unusual to see a program that is community-wide and focused on outreach. The church is largely irrelevant in Northern Ireland (and Europe for that matter) and membership in a local body is for the most part defined by your surname or neighborhood. In short, either you are “born” into a church through family, or you simply don’t belong. And even if you start in a church, it is often the case that by the time you are a teenager church has become dull and unimportant so you leave.
Into this dynamic we insert our team, a group highly energized by the challenge of Northern Ireland. Our team helps act as a catalyst for the larger team and that encouragement is a big part of what we do. Many of our team members see themselves, their own life and faith journey, in the youth of Northern Ireland who are struggling with life and church. We form relationships with youngsters, teens and families that show us that God and His church is so much bigger than Lexington or Southland. And in a way we bring water, the living water, to a dry land that needs the hope that only Jesus can bring.
For the second year, another team of young adults from Kentucky and Tennessee will be joining forces with another team from Northern Ireland to spend two weeks working in northern Uganda to help orphans and the surrounding community with everything from building projects to Bible lessons and just daily reminders of God’s love.
New Beginnings (NBCT) is a non-profit making organization set up by a group of volunteers in Northern Ireland. NBCT works closely with an experienced and carefully selected team in Africa to help bring a better quality of life to some of Uganda’s most vulnerable young children.
NBCT has purchased approximately 8 acres of land beside a small rural village in the Nakasangola District in Uganda adjacent to the local school. We plan to purchase additional land for farming in the area.
This area has suffered greatly both from the effects war and from AIDS.
Uganda has a population of approx. 30,000,000 people there are an estimated 2,300,000 orphans below the age of seventeen. NBCT aims to bring hope to children who feel hopeless, and embrace the rejected. Children are selected from the following backgrounds:
NBCT aims to offer care, protection and love through the establishment of Children’s Villages in which:
NBCT works with local authorities and local communities to ensure that this work done in a way that does not alienate the people of the area, but rather involves them in the project. We want to encourage community ownership and support.
Belfast has been voted one of the world’s top destinations for 2012 by an international travel magazine. The National Geographic Traveller called the city a “treasure” with an “incredible atmosphere”. Next year is the centenary of the Titanic and Belfast City Council has just announced that the hugely popular Tall Ships will return in 2015.
Other locations on the magazine’s must see list are Iceland, north Columbia, the Volcanoes of Virunga and Oman.
The Titanic Centenary Commemorations are the next high profile event in Belfast, due to start in just a few months time. When the Tall Ships last came to Belfast in August 2009 they attracted an estimated 800,000 visitors in the four days of the festival.
The National Geographic Traveller’s editor-in-chief, Keith Bellows, wrote of Belfast: “It was great, the food, the incredible atmosphere and don’t take this wrong, in many ways it reminded me of Cuba, what it was like there seven or eight years ago.
“I felt that this place was a treasure that had sort of been preserved, it hadn’t been trampled on by the big foot of tourism and so I really loved its purity.
“You look at where the energy spots are in the world and this is Belfast’s time.”
Particular mention was given to the Belfast Bred walking tour, performed by Kabosh Theatre Company who took Mr Bellows on an ingredient hunt, tracing Northern Ireland’s culinary heritage.
Michael Lavery is one of the actors involved in the tour, he plays the role of a resurrected chef of RMS Titanic. “Its great for Belfast, to get mentioned by the National Geographic, its going to be an incredible year, there’s lots to see, this is such a fantastic city,” he said. “I’ve learned so much by doing this, like the man who invented Milk of Magnesia came from Belfast. He lived in a wee house around the corner, so its great being able to point out things like that and see in people’s faces the reaction, but the Titanic year is going to blow them away, its going to be huge for us.”
The accolades don’t end there. The Financial Times has listed Belfast as one of the ‘Top 10 places in the world’ to hold a conference or major event.
Read the rest of the BBC story HERE.
We made it. After a near miss on the flight from Lexington to Atlanta, and with some great help from Delta (our pilot actually got us permission to move our landing gate from Terminal D to Terminal E so we were closer to our Dublin flight) and a 15 minute hold that only God and the Diamond Medallion folks could swing, we made it to Dublin.
It was a great first day with COOL weather (we were 45 degrees cooler than Lexington). We saw Christ Church in Dublin and the Standing Crosses at Monasterboice. Illustrations fron history that tell us people have been passionately following Jesus and telling His story for thousands of years. And now we get to be a part of that as well.
The team is now all together in Ardaluin House and excited about the next two weeks. Pray for us, and for more God appointments. Learn about FUSED HERE.