Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hope Springs as Hate Ends: The Historic Deal in Northern Ireland

Yesterday two former political and religious enemies declared that they will begin power sharing on May 8. Gerry Adams of Sein Finn (Catholic) and Ian Paisley (Protestant) were bitter enemies for nealy 40 years. In that time close to 5000 have been killed, thousands more injured, and countless more greiving relatives suffered, as both sides, filled with hate, bombed and butchered each other. Since the 1970s, it was typical to see the nightly news filled with stories of more fighting in Northern Ireland. It seemed like a never ending nightmare. But a new peaceful chapter in Northern Ireland history is thankfully underway. Many who were in the middle of the conflict thought that they would never see the day that these two leaders would be sitting across from each other and agreeing.

A devolution or home rule is being ushered in to Northern Ireland. (Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a state to government at national, regional or local level.) Members of Paisley's DUP and Adams' Sein Finn will help make up the power sharing executive.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "Everything we have done over the last ten years has been a preparation for this moment."

The lesson for areas of the world where hatred and violence reign over reason and peace, is that understanding and resolution is possible. It is hard to stop violence once it starts. Someone's family member is killed, revenge is sought, past violent acts rationalizes future vengence, and the cycle continues. It should sound familiar as it appears on our tv and computer screens every day. Iraq, the Middle East, Somalia, Sudan, and Congo, to name a few, are violent places of war and hate. However, empathizing with others is a large part of the resolution process.

When emotions are high in the midst of such tradegy, it has to be extremely difficult to listen to the opponents' point of view in order to start resolving problems. It's better to do teach empathy before conflict arises rather than after.

The more the world falls apart through killings, hate, and discrimination, the more important emphathy is between those of different cultures, religions, political views, languages, and race. There really ought to be a United Nations agreement for all countries to have a common or similiar program of education where Understanding/Empathy is a required course, where conflict resolution is taught, where what humans of all backgrounds have in common is taught, and includes teaching what different belief systems do have in common. That is important because while there may be commonalities between diverse groups, there are often different approaches, i.e., customs, rituals, prayers, no prayers, to achieve good goals. That needs to be acknowledged, understood and respected. For example, Paisley and Adams are Christian but their sub-religions approach it differently. Unfortunately, centuries of viewing the other side as extra-terrestrial aliens, clouded the fact that they were of the same species, who have the same basic needs in life.

The historic deal in Northern Ireland brings hope to all other fighting groups in the world. The direction is positive and hopefully the deal will stick. If peace can happen there it can happen for other regions at war. Hopefully, those fighting will see this as an example to live by, and begin a new trend in resolving socialized hatred, and ending the most horrific atrocities we see daily.

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