Press Release - Statement from the Irish Inter-Church Committee for Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week, 18 September 2017 - Immediate
Attn: Newsdesks, Religious Affairs Correspondents
The Irish Inter-Church Committee, meeting on 14 September 2017, issued the following statement for Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week, 18th-24th September 2017, on the theme of ‘Safe space, shared place’:
“Building new relationships of trust at local level is an essential foundation for lasting peace and reconciliation. Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week provides a valuable opportunity to highlight the many ways in which cultural diversity enriches our local communities, and focus our attention on the work that still needs to be done.
This year’s theme of ‘Safe space, shared place’ reminds us that, for too many people in Northern Ireland, the local community is still not a safe space. Peace walls, and the fear and threat they represent, remain a daily reality in many areas. As churches, we recognise that we have a responsibility to work for the transformation of our society into a place where everyone feels safe and welcome. We need to reflect about where we may be missing opportunities to challenge sectarianism and division.
Equally, it is important to share the good news of where churches, working together and in partnership with others, have been able to have a positive impact. At a time of worrying political instability, the importance of strong local networks is particularly evident as vital services that support and promote social cohesion come under increasing pressure. Churches, working together for the common good and reaching out to those who are marginalised or vulnerable, make an important contribution to the work of building strong, resilient communities. We should not underestimate the value of simple gestures of neighbourliness and welcome in helping to overcome a legacy of conflict and division.
For many people, resistance to the idea of ‘shared space’ arises from the fear that this will mean a loss of community identity and a lack of respect for the history and traditions of certain sections of society. We need a new vision for our society that addresses these fears and shows how different cultures and traditions can be brought together in a way that respects the identity of each, but also recognises our interdependence as members of society, committed to working for a better future for all. Churches have a role to play in shaping that vision by communicating the Christian values that inspire and inform our approach to the work of peace and reconciliation.”
The Irish Inter Church Committee is part of the formal meeting structure between the Irish Council of Churches and the Irish Episcopal Conference to develop and provide a voice for Ireland’s Churches to connect through a common belief in Christ. It is co–chaired by Rt Rev John McDowell, President, Irish Council of Churches, and Bishop Brendan Leahy, Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick.
For media contact Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Irish Council of Churches: Tel. +44 788 088 2597.