Sometimes the news is good!
So often the TV news is full of hatred, murder and war, so it is good to be able to report people giving peace a chance.
The sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland generated a lot of hatred, division and violence. But not all Protestants and Catholics hated each other. Way back in 1965, the Corrymeela Community was formed, with both "sides" of Christianity represented. Among its purposes was to "Work to realise a society whose priorities are justice, mutual respect, the participation of all, concern for the vulnerable and the stranger, stewardship of resources, and care for creation."
Facing the sectarian violence that was rampant at the time, the community specifically aimed "to establish over time a shared society defined by tolerance: a normal civil society in which all individuals are considered as equal, where differences are resolved through dialogue in the public sphere and where all individuals are treated impartially."
The community won an international peace prize for its programs and promotion of reconciliation in 1997. You can read about its current programs here. It is, of course, only one of many groups that have led to the current peace in Northern Ireland.
In August, the British Army ceased "active deployment" in Northern Ireland, although a peacetime garrison remains, a significant development.
Other stories about reconciliation have made news recently.
- A year ago, former South African Police Minister. Adriaan Vlok, visited a church in Soweto to apologise to the Rev Frank Chikane for attempting to murder him during the apartheid regime. Rev Chicane commented: "The fact that Mr Vlok has come to make a confession to me and is here with us today is a miracle". He said that, despite being angry, people should be prepared to "pick ourselves up and move on...... We must not let the past we've defeated dictate our future."
- In April this year, Matthew Cloyd, along with two others, was convicted and sentenced to prison for arson attacks on nine churches in Alabama. One church was Galilee Baptist, a small congregation whose building was burnt to the ground. A replacement building has been completed, and recently Cloyd's family were among those who attended a service to celebrate the new building, in an attempt to reach out to the congregation. "We felt like they deserved to hear from us," Mrs Kim Cloyd said. "We felt like they needed to know that this was not about racism or hatred."In return, the congregation hugged the Coyd family, and visitors reported they were overwhelmed by the sense of forgiveness and love in the congregation towards the family.
Jesus said: "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24) Reconciliation is more important than religious ceremony.
We need more people to live out this teaching, like the brave examples in these stories.