Get Involved

At the 2014 4 Corners Festival, with the support of Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Unit, we hosted networking events for faith groups engaged in peacebuilding work in the 4 Corners of Belfast.

At the networking event, artist Patrick Sanders produced these images which beautifully captured the spirit of the event (Click the image to view larger version):

 

Many of these groups have now granted us permission to share about their work on this website. We hope that this furthers opportunities for peace activists to form networks of relationships with each other,  inspires new people to get involved with peacebuilding groups in their local area, or helps people think of new ideas about how they can work for peace, reconciliation and Christian unity.

Clonard Unity Pilgrims – Ed Peterson, ejp@clonard.com

The Clonard Unity Pilgrims go every Sunday of the year to be with a Protestant congregation for their Morning Service. The visits are always arranged in advance with the minister of the chosen congregation to make sure the proposed Sunday is acceptable. The pilgrims ask nothing more than the privilege of being with a congregation in faith and friendship at their Morning Service. We receive a generous and warm welcome each week and have found that after a few visits to the same congregation, new opportunities for friendship and dialogue emerge. We seek to find our unity in Christ and share in an exchange of gifts for one another. The pilgrims meet weekly for an Inter-Church Bible reflection and for an hour of silent prayer for the unity of Christians and for peace across our communities

Church of the Good Shepherd, MonkstownNigel Beattie, nigel.beattie3@btinternet.com

In early 2013 Joan, the leader of the Craft and Fellowship Group from the Church of the Good Shepherd (COGS) in Monkstown, read an article about a knitted Christmas tree. So in early spring, equipped with a pattern, Joan and the ladies from COGS set about knitting green squares.

Following a conversation with a member of the parish of St Oliver Plunkett in Lenadoon, Joan shared her hope of knitting a Christmas tree. This chance conversation was possible because previously there had been visits between the two groups of people to their respective churches, and they had attended events in one another’s parishes.

Joan shared her vision of producing two trees, one for each church, one Sunday morning at St Oliver Plunkett’s.  Over the summer months members from St Oliver Plunkett’s and COGS Knit & Natter group made exchange visits. The squares, in forty shades of green, grew in number as did the knitted decorations that would be needed to adorn both trees.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas the timber structure for the trees was assembled.  Joan’s dream has come to life in both churches – they now display a 7′ tree of knitted green squares and decorations.

At the end of the Christmas festivities both groups plan to sew the squares together to make blankets for those in need.  The initiative generated a considerable amount of interest beyond both congregations and involved a number of women who normally didn’t attend either church. Members of both groups discovered through their meetings together that in spite of their differences, the two parishes have much more in common, such as both parishes have housing estates which have similar problems.

They recognised how they had “lots to learn about one another and ourselves”.

The Dock Maggie and Chris, motherdaisy@tiscali.co.uk

Dock Café opened in early 2012 as a hub for life – social, spiritual and shared life – for the new community forming in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.   It’s a shabby-chic pop-up cafe with a constant flow of coffee, buns, local residents, students, professionals, tourists from all over the world and visitors from all over the city.  The cafe operates on an Honesty Box pay-what-you-want system and is run by volunteers and Chaplains from 6 different Christian traditions working together.

The model is loosely that of a university chaplaincy – in which a shared communal and worship space is energised by chaplains from across the spectrum of denominations. Six chaplains from Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Nazarene and Congregational traditions reflect this ecumenical culture.

Not being a traditional church has had its advantages and its drawbacks. The café’s space is open to all, of any faith, denomination, or none. Sunday afternoon services – the Dock Walks – have incorporated theological discussions whilst walking round the TQ, often exploring issues close to the Belfast heart. More recently, monthly evening services on the SS Nomadic have provided a space for all denominations to meet; the December meeting focused on the legacy of CS Lewis.

Frustrations have included: slow response from some church hierarchies to trying something new, starting from scratch without a congregational or financial resource base, difficulty in attracting funding because of not working in an area of social deprivation.

Unexpected blessings have included: fast growth of the volunteer team in the café, astronomical success of the café, offer of the SS Nomadic as a worship space, the Meanwhile Lease, and considerable support and risk-taking involvement from the development corporation & secular business world.

Someone commented at the start of The Dock project that the Titanic Quarter represents the best blank page the church has had in Ireland since St Patrick stepped off the boat.  We’re trying to seize that unprecedented opportunity and fill the blank page together.

EMBRACE NI project: ‘Hear My Voice’ DVD –Aneta Dabek, aneta@embraceni.org

EMBRACE NI is a group of Christians from different denominations working together to promote positive responses to people seeking asylum, refugees, migrant workers and minority-ethnic people in order to assist local congregations and groups in building a more welcoming society.

The group runs workshops and training which promote initiatives that assist newcomers in feeling more at home in local communities and which help local people to understand the issues associated with migration. They publish a range of printed and online resources.

It can be hard to imagine what it is like to come to a new country, not just to visit, but in the hope of staying in order to make a new life. EMBRACE NI has produced a DVD containing descriptions of how it feels. These are some direct quotes from migrants and people seeking asylum:

“…I still feel that it is not easy for someone who is a foreigner to live here compared to somebody who is from here…”

“I know most of my friends who have been depressed, they have been down and once they go to Church they feel better. Most of my friends, whom maybe they just came and were keeping to themselves, once they start going to a certain Church they just quickly change and then you could see the improvement even in themselves. They become happy. They get to know people and trust them more.”

These and other voices are heard on the new EMBRACE NI DVD. The animated film is 6 minutes long and it is an excellent tool for starting discussions. The resource is free and it is available on EMBRACE website (www.embraceni.org) or the DVD can be obtained from EMBRACE office.

Evangelical Alliance NI, David Smyth, d.smyth@eauk.org

We see peace-making as crucial to the integrity of the Christian Church in Northern Ireland. We are involved in a number of initiatives at a policy level. We respond to Government consultations on reconciliation issues on behalf of our members and recently produced a comprehensive response to the Haass talks. We are actively encouraging Churches to ‘mainstream’ peacemaking as a vital part of their witness and to encourage the next generation to get involved in transforming our society. We are also involved in a few groups which help to facilitate difficult or delicate conversations. We were recently involved with a number of other organisations in the re-launch of ‘For God and His Glory Alone’, a booklet to help Churches think through issues raised by the conflict from a biblical perspective.

Fixers – Roisin Mohan, roisin@fixers.org.uk  and Chris Pollock, chrispollock@fixers.org.uk

Fixers works with young people (16-25) who are seeking to make a positive difference in some shape or form to their society. We, with the help of funding from the Big Lottery, help them to produce media based resources which are aimed at positively impacting at least one person in a target audience identified by the young people themselves.

El Gruer, is one such young person. El is in the final stages of producing a poetry resource (a series of postcards) containing some unique artwork and one of her specially written poems which will be packaged in Little Red Envelopes and sent to recipients who she as identified as potentially benefiting from the reception of an unsolicited ‘pick me up.’

El is undertaking this project anonymously. Each envelope will be sent from the character Little Red in the hope that the impact of a ‘random act of kindness,’ coupled with the words of her poetry will have the desired, positive, effect on each recipient.

With all fixes, Fixers must present evidence to Big Lottery that it has been a success. Generally, this is done by having a tightly defined and specific target audience from which feedback can be gathered. (Three pieces of feedback are required before a fix can be ‘closed’) Given the nature of this fix, the recipients will be determined by current events. Politicians, Police Officers, Care Home residents or staff, School principals, Lollypop Ladies and so on could, in due course, be recipients of a Little Red Envelope.  However, in discussion with El she is keen to select a group of recipients from whom sufficient feedback could be gathered to allow for the Fix to be closed and for her to have as much freedom as possible when identifying further recipients.

If you would like to know more about Fixers please check out our website: www.fixers.org.uk

You can watch a video about Fixers:

Focolare Movement – Irene Jovaras, irene.jovaras@gmail.com

I am a member of the Focolare Movement, which worldwide is engaged in various types of projects to foster friendships between people of different faith backgrounds and none to develop projects for the common good. There is also a group of representatives of different Movements, eg Corrymeela, L’Arche, who have been supporting one another. There are several groups which have monthly discussions and sharing of experiences in different parts of Belfast in the spirit of mutual respect. Family groups from across Belfast are also meeting more regularly with children’s activities.

This year the annual summer conference will be held for the first time in Northern Ireland, in Ballycastle 2-6 July 2014, and we hope to give an opportunity for people from different parts of Belfast, and the island, to come together and make new friends. The event in 2013 brought together 350 people in Dungarvan. Co. Waterford.

In 2012 Focolare organised a Run4unity around Stormont, bringing together young people of different backgrounds to express worldwide solidarity with youth worldwide who believe a united world is possible and want to work together to reach this goal.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet others in Belfast since I have only recently come to the Focolare community in Belfast and it would be good to link in with the work of other groups and be able to support ongoing projects.

I attended the launching of the City Sanctuary project, re-creating a welcoming city, and this would fit in with the ethos we are committed to supporting.

Fortwilliam & Macrory Presbyterian Church – Rev Dr Lesley Carroll, info@fmpci.com

Fortwilliam & Macrory Presbyterian Church is engaged in a number of outreach efforts working alongside disengaged and at risk young people. This includes a community gardening project and a bike maintenance workshop. All our projects use a restorative justice model for building relationships across the community and enabling young people to better express their conflicts and ambitions. The aim of the work is to enable people to become more reconciled with their own potential and achieve it and to become reconciled with one another inside and between communities. To support the project outreach we are working towards establishing a centre for reconciliation, to be called The Inspire Centre, on Duncairn Gardens.

ICAP (Inter-Church Addiction Project) – Josephine O’Neill, bjooneill@gmail.com

A Place of Hope and Restoration

The Inter Church Addiction Project began with one man’s dream of reaching out to young people adversely affected by the misuse of alcohol and other drugs; this was a ministry to young people that could be shared by all the Christian denominations.

The Inter Church Addiction Project (ICAP) was established in 2004 and formally launched in June 2006 by the leaders of the four main Churches (Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic) and the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland with the purpose of setting up a residential treatment centre for young people suffering from the misuse of alcohol and other drugs and providing support to their families.

Funding is not yet available for such a centre, however, clergy and people from across the denominations continue to work together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect to express their concern about the shortfall of services available to deal with the growing problem of substance abuse amongst young people.

We are dedicated to the building of hope and confidence among our youth and supporting them in making healthy lifestyle choices that will promote positive mental health and well being.  We have an office at 683 Antrim Road and can provide information and counselling to young people under the age of 21 on request.

ICAP’s vision is of an oasis of compassion and healing where young people caught in the suffering of substance misuse, and their families, are invited to a place of hope and restoration.

Working together across the denominations has helped us to break down barriers and discover our common humanity and desire to tackle our prejudice and learn from each other.  In this way we have come to understand and respect one another so as to reach out in compassion to those in need for the creation of a better more tolerant, peaceful society.

The Irish Churches Peace Project – Laura Coulter, laura@icpp.info (Good Relations Officer for Greater Belfast)

The Irish Churches Peace Project is an initiative of the island’s four largest churches, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Methodist and the Irish Council of Churches. Their vision is:

To facilitate the transformation of Northern Ireland and the border region into becoming a peaceful and stable society, with a shared and better future”

ICPP has been established to enable reconciliation in society through the churches working together. It aims to promote sustained and well facilitated cross community dialogue particularly focusing on the contentious issues that need to be addressed in order to develop good relations and promote reconciliation. It also wishes to support local inter-church/cross-community groups in their development of new grass roots initiatives that will contribute to the lasting peace.

Contact information for good relations workers in other parts of Northern Ireland and the border counties can be found here. ICPP also maintains a Facebook page where you can learn about its latest activities. 

Laura Coulter, ICPP Good Relations Officer in North Belfast, has been working with a small group of clergy who organised a prayer vigil for Belfast in December.  They hoped that the initiative would bring together people from all churches and communities to celebrate diversity and to pray for the peace of the city, particularly given recent tensions.

“We want to pray for peace and reconciliation in our city at this time. We want to send out a message of hope and celebration of difference at this Christmas season.”    Fr Magill

Around 70 people from all denominations attended an uplifting and reflective evening.

Breige O’Hare led the reflections and two young musicians from Joanmount Methodist and Sacred Heart Parish, led the singing.  The ‘Prayer for Belfast,’ which has been promoted by the Lord Mayor during the year, was used during the service.

It is hoped that this initiative is a first step towards further initiatives that will promote inter-church dialogue and deepen understanding between the different church traditions.

Joanmount Methodist ChurchOpen Door — Stephen Thompson stevebbc2000@yahoo.co.uk 

We are a Methodist Church in North Belfast, situated on the Oldpark. As part of our missional ethos, the Church established a charity a number of years ago, named Open Door, aimed at reaching out to others in the local community. One of the strands emanating from the Open Door strategy is a focus upon peace-building through various projects that aim to bring different understandings together through interaction and dialogue.  Projects include a weekly luncheon club for our more senior members of the community from both sides of the religious traditions and on-going dialogue between the clergy.

Open Door aims to pursue the realisation that commonality exceeds difference, and that through interaction and mutual understanding and respect, a coming together is not only natural but longer lasting.

Lamb of God – Liam Cluskey, liamcluskey@yahoo.co.uk

The Lamb of God Community was founded in 1977 as an interdenominational community of lay people committed to the work of renewal, peace and reconciliation within their own lives and relationships and to offer the fruit of this experience to their own churches and the wider community in which they live. To this end the Lamb of God Community calls its members individually and collectively to play a full part in the task of healing the wounds and divisions that exist between the denominational churches and to co-operate in any way possible with the many efforts being made to improve the quality of life in North Belfast. Over the past 36 years we have been actively involved in working with a large number of groups working for peace, bridge-building and reconciliation in many parts of N. Ireland. In order to have a base to work in and from, the community purchased a centre, Shalom House in 1979. This was a small property located in Duncairn Gardens, an interface area of the city. After twelve years there was pressure to develop and expand our work and a larger house was purchased in 1990 at 12 Cliftonville Road our current address.

Shalom House provides a variety of services to the people of this area and among these are:

  • A Shared Space rooms made available for local groups to come together in a safe environment.
  • A Spiritual Programme to help those who desire to grow and mature in the Christian life. These include meditation, seminars, scripture studies, prayer ministry and prayer meetings. A Strong emphasis is put on ecumenical activities in this area.
  • Personal Growth to help and encourage people into a greater awareness of their own dignity and potential as human beings. A number of courses and seminars are offered on a regular basis.
  • Crèche Facilities are provided
  • Self Help Groups the centre is made available where possible to help groups such as Al-Anon and other cross-community groups who from time to time need a meeting room.
  • Staff Shalom house has a regular staff of four, augmented by a number of volunteers to meet the varying demands.

Shalom is a place of welcome and hospitality situated in North Belfast. We are open to all regardless of religion, race, age, disability, gender and culture.

The Loom – Marda Stothers, mqstothers@yahoo.com

My husband and I have lived in North Belfast working and living in the mid Shankill Road community.  We are pensioned faith based volunteers from the United States.  We do church and community relationship building. Ward is a poet and intends to soon publish a book of poems and prayers.  I am a retired government project manager and I network people and projects into a strong tapestry.

We have been in North Belfast for nearly six years and we have been joined by an American colleague, Jon Kennedy, a journalist who has written about CS Lewis and who follows the Christian Orthodox Church, a neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant church.  As the Loom we pray and build relationships so that the vision of Christian unity may encourage the world.

We are ordinary people whom God has equipped to bring good news and hope.  We are grateful to the people of Northern Ireland who have welcomed us.

Shortly after the 4 Corners Networking Event in 2014, the Stothers moved back to Berkeley, but the Loom continues with resident author Jon Kennedy. The Stothers will work remotely and return for special projects.

Music Unites project, St Anne’s Cathedral – Revd Campbell Dixon, Campbell@belfastcathedral.org

St Anne’s Cathedral is a place of Christian worship in Belfast. It is a living place where the cycle of worship is maintained and which welcomes tourists, pilgrims, regular worshippers, or merely those who seek a quiet place. The cathedral stands as place of civic and national importance and its ecumenical life can only flourish with the support of the whole community.

‘Music Unites’ is a project birthed by the Music Department in conjunction with Protestant (Edenbrook), Catholic (Sacred Heart) and Integrated (Cliftonville) primary schools in North Belfast, which seeks to bring together young people from across areas divided by sectarian conflict through the vehicle of music and as a result develop and grow good relations.

Aim: – To use music as a vehicle to unite young people from differing religious, cultural   and community background through the out living of the life of the Cathedral.

Objectives:

•             Young people provided opportunities to develop their musical potential

•             Young people and their families coming together as one leading to the development of lasting friendships

•             Further development of the Cathedral as a shared space and promoter of good relations

Principals speak positively of the opportunity the project presents:

‘We are delighted to be invited to participate in this innovative project. It will give the children more confidence and provide opportunity to visit the Cathedral.’  Mrs P Quinn, Principal Sacred Heart PS

‘We are very privileged to be selected to participate in this project. We can hardly wait for it to begin. Bring it on!’   Ms B McMullen, Cliftonville Integrated PS

‘We are excited about the opportunity the project presents for our pupils musically and educationally’ Mr J Manning Principal, Edenbrooke PS

Precious Prizes Church – Colin Houston, colinriverword@yahoo.co.uk

Precious Prizes Church was set up last September and is carrying out work in trying to break barriers down between both sides of the walls in North and West Belfast. This has been achieved by working with catholic groups such as Precious Life along with other chapels in taking a stand against abortion and campaigning for life. Through a partnership approach to lobbying at Stormont, the groups now meet on a Friday night at Springfield Road to worship and pray together on issues such as the Peace Process and the walls to come down in people’s minds and hearts.

The vision of the group is to become involved with street pastors in the Falls and Shankill areas to help get people from both sides of community to serve in the others community though the day, taking part in activities such as helping with cleaning gardens, painting areas of the community with fresh art projects of peace and reconciliation and building trust though walking and praying and serving in each other’s community. We hope that in the future we are able to help knock the walls down together between our communities making them one again.

Sacred Heart Parish – Rosemary McCloskey, rosemaryjmccloskey@gmail.com

I work voluntarily in Sacred Heart Parish, in north Belfast, and have got involved with Joanmount Methodist Church community as a member of their Open Door committee. With them I look for ways to bring our two communities together to share in worship, meals and a bit of storytelling. I tried to start a reminiscence/life story group with their Friendship Club but made the mistake of going too fast and producing the written word when the oral work would have been more acceptable (I learnt from that.)

In Sacred Heart Parish Centre, on Fridays at 12.30pm, I hope to have a luncheon club for people 55+ who wish to avail of it. I have asked the people from Joanmount to join with us on Fridays for this, and it is open to anyone of any faith group and none, in the hope that it will serve a need to bring people together and promote mutual understanding.

I am also involved with another parishioner, in organising a film/ events/ activities afternoon on Wednesdays 2-4pm, especially for senior men. This is open to all of any and every faith or none, and the hope is that it will be a meeting place where all will feel welcome and comfortable in sharing their stories with one another over a cup of tea.

I live in a relatively “mixed” part of the upper Oldpark Road and my house is open for anyone to call in and share a chat and a cuppa and many of those around me feel welcome to come and do just that. I have brought some of them to assist me in fund raising events in Sacred Heart Parish centre and thus they have made new friendships, working alongside parishioners of their own age, and enjoyed the craic.

I have found cooperation, friendship and a willingness to share expertise, from Woodvale Methodist parishioners and their minister, who invited me to lunch in their church hall and gave me ideas about starting our luncheon club. I now have a standing invitation to have my lunch with them every Tuesday. It helps a lot when I  find support and encouragement for what I am trying to do from people of other churches especially the Methodists, who have been very helpful to me and I hope that we can work together in future projects bringing our communities together. The Burns’ supper in our parish centre should be a wonderful event in continuing the process we have already begun. It remains to be seen how many will come along from other communities all over Belfast.

There is more going on under the radar than we realise.

St Oliver Plunkett/St Joseph’s/St John’s Ecumenical Group — Sally Brennan sallybrennan@ntlworld.com

In early 2012 Fr Martin Magill (then St Oliver Plunkett Parish Priest) talked of an Alpha course which was a way of exploring our Christian faith through Scripture, questions and discussion.

In January 2013 twenty five parishioners from St Oliver Plunkett, West Belfast, St Joseph’s, Hannahstown and St John’s Church of Ireland, Stoneyford came together to find out what it was all about.

The Alpha course met every Tuesday evening for ten weeks with a week-end half way through the course.

The venue was the Ballymac Hotel, Stoneyford where we shared a meal (just as Jesus often did) and viewed a video, by Nicky Gumbel, which dealt with various aspects of Christian faith and scripture.  After a coffee break we split into two groups for questions, answers and discussion.  Everyone participated in these sessions and discussions were very lively and informative. This was an excellent course where we shared views, learned from each other and discovered how much we had in common where our faith was concerned.  We had a follow-up reunion to assess the results of the course.  Feedback was extremely positive and most of the participants were keen to keep in touch.

In September 2013 the three parishes came together again to read and study St Mark’s Gospel, with Pauline and Michael guiding us.  This was over a four week period with each parish alternatively hosting the meetings. A group of us attended St John’s, Stoneyford Harvest Thanksgiving Service where we were made very welcome and were entertained afterwards in their Parish hall. Stoneyford also attended Hannahstown Heritage Society gathering in December.

Throughout these meetings we have been encouraged by the support and guidance of the clergy of the three parishes and the parish Sisters.  We have also forged new friendships and realise that while we may tread different paths we have the same ultimate goal.

Springfield Road Methodist Church as part of the work of Forthspring – Margaret Ferguson, maferg52@gmail.com

Springfield Road Methodist Church is situated on the Springfield Road right on the peace line at Workman Avenue.  A group of women from both sides of the community have been meeting here every Wednesday for many years.  They dance together each week and then get to know each other better over a cup of tea.  They then come together for a time of prayer in the church space.  They pray together for the local community, for family life, for wider world issues and for improved relations in the area.  Originally a project within the Methodist Church the prayer is led by members of the different Christian faiths.  Over the years the ladies have taken trips together both social and to the Corrymeela Community where they have been encouraged to explore issues around the sectarian divisions in the community.

Belfast Street Pastors – Coordinator, belfast@streetpastors.org.ukwww.belfast.streetpastors.org.uk

‘Belfast Street Pastors’ is Christians from different churches working together to care, listen and help people as they leave pubs and clubs on Friday and Saturday nights.

There are now 250 schemes and 12,000 volunteers in GB & Ireland (so far Belfast, Newtownabbey and Cork). We go out in teams or 3 or 4 from 11pm to 3am and listen to people, stay with them if necessary, help prevent vulnerable girls being picked up against their will, calm down anti-social behaviour, give out flip flops to girls in high heels etc. People are always amazed when we find out 1) we are all volunteers 2) we are not there to judge or preach and 3) we are from different churches working together.

Although our main current focus is the pubs and clubs, we have also helped in the Holyland area on St Patrick’s Day weekend and Townsend Street Cross-community festival. If we have enough people, we are flexible to be able to help out in different contexts.

You can watch the Street Pastors in action here:

Tres Dias – Terry Doherty, terry.doherty1@ntlworld.com

Tres Dias is an ecumenical organisation, established in Ireland in 2001, which endeavours to bring Christians to a closer, more personal walk with the Lord Jesus Christ and encourage them to exercise Christian leadership in their church and community.

We run two, three day residential courses each year with the involvement of approx 30 Catholic and Protestant participants on each weekend.  These retreats take place in a cloistered environment which results in close relationships developing within a short period of time.

Following the weekends we hold monthly reunion groups (approx 24 per year) when we have times of sharing and praying together.  We have separate reunions for men and women but hold combined community gatherings four times a year. In the summer we have a Tres Dias picnic at Crawfordsburn Country Park where we share a barbecue at the beach. Each December we gather to have a Christmas lunch together.

The Community takes part in 5 weekly inter-denominational meetings in May each year.  These are organised by the churches in west Belfast and are led by a different denomination each week.  Tres Dias also takes its turn to lead on one of the evenings.  Some of the members also participate in various church services as part of the ‘In Joyful Hope’ programme organised by leaders of the main Christian denominations.

Various Tres Dias fund raising events like coffee mornings, social evenings and table quizzes are held at intervals throughout the year and are well attended. All these activities result in those involved developing relationships, establishing enduring friendships and gaining a deeper understanding of people of different Christian backgrounds.

Our growing numbers witnesses to the value of people from all Christian denominations spending time together, getting to know one another and growing together.  Tres Dias may take us out of our comfort zone but it promotes qualities such as reconciliation, harmony and respect within those who participate and hopefully this can only benefit the wider community of Ireland.

The Ulster Project – John Forsythe, gorm165@gmail.com

The Ulster Project in Northern Ireland has been operational since 1975 and from 18 centres province-wide has engaged over 6,000 young people from both traditions. Placements are limited and hotly contested. There are five groups currently active in Belfast, drawing from the ‘four corners’ of our City and this year 62 young people with 10 leaders will travel to America.

For consideration of inclusion into the programme applicants who are 15 years old are required to demonstrate that they have made an active and positive contribution to the life of their Church, School or Community. Following acceptance they engage in a 6 month programme with an equal number of male/female, Catholic /Protestant team members who meet regularly to form bonding, cultural awareness and a positive appreciation of each other’s culture.

In America, they engage in a month long programme that involves sharing the life of an American family of their own religious denomination and a structured programme that includes in-depth reflection on the causes of sectarianism and racism, working with deprived communities in environments such as soup kitchens for the homeless, day care for the children of poor parents, and environmental projects. In addition, they experience various confidence building exercises. Needless to say they also are given time to sample recreational activities with white water rafting, cross country pony trekking, the opportunity to be involved in flying light aircraft, and theme parks.

The results of such generous opportunities are that these young people are imbued with a level of confidence that never leaves them, and they create enduring relationships. Participation as a ‘Member of an Ulster Project’ is not a ‘holiday’ – but a life-changing experience.

The Mission of the Ulster Project is to help young, Christian based potential leaders from Northern Ireland and the United States become peacemakers by providing a safe environment to learn by practicing the skills needed to unite people when differences divide them.

 

Youth Link – Joe McKeown,  joe@youthlink.org.uk

 

Youth Link has been working with young people and adults from the Four Corners of Belfast since 1991. Over the years Youth Link staff using a range of youth work and community relations approaches to engage with the community in a meaningful way. Thousands of young people/adults have been trained in this time and they are now putting their skills into action in their respective communities/groups. 

 

Youth Link: NI is the inter-church youth service for Northern Ireland.  It was established by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1991. Youth Link exists to provide support and training for youth workers and community relations experiences for young people. 

 

Central to Youth Link is the Christian faith which commits us to:

 

  • The personal, social and spiritual development of young people
  • Encourage and support leaders in their personal and professional development;
  • Developing effective and strategic partnerships;
  • Building relationships that enable healing in the lives of individuals and communities within a diverse society;
  • Fairness in provision of service;
  • Integrity and accountability in all aspects of our work.

 

Youth Link’s vision is of Churches working together to develop excellence in youth work and ministry, enabling young people and youth practitioners to be agents of transformation in a divided society.  Youth

 

Link’s mission is to work together to:

 

  • Provide excellence in all aspects of youth work and leadership training;
  • Encourage and equip young people to participate in Church and society and in the building of a shared future;
  • Collaborate with Church bodies, youth organisations and all sectors with responsibility for young people;
  • Facilitate strategies for the development of youth ministry within the Churches;
  • Integrate equity, diversity and interdependence into all aspects of policy and practice in youth work and ministry