A team of American academics led a ground-breaking conference on themes of conflict and reconciliation in Lurgan’s Jethro Centre.
A series of workshops and seminars, featuring local and international experts, put the focus on building new relationships, confronting history and helping create a shared future which respects the past yet acknowledges the possibilities of a fresh beginning.
While many would contend that Lurgan has been slow to feel the so-called “peace dividend”, the conference demonstrated that forgiveness and a willingness to address difficult issues can build a momentum which opens new doors.
Organised by LJHSTV Trust and Connecting Communities, part of Shankill Parish Caring Association, the three-day Moving On event examined issues of identity, forgiveness and the role of the arts in peace-building.
The cornerstone of the conference was a ‘A Step Too Far’, a video produced by LJHSTV Trust, which scrutinised the blanket forgiveness of an American Amish community in the wake of a 2006 schoolroom attack which left five girls dead and five with serious injuries.
The willingness of the Amish community to forgive the gunman was subsequently translated into a Northern Ireland context by speakers including University of Ulster lecturer Dr Duncan Morrow and Will Devas of the Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Centre in County Wicklow.
One of the conference delegates, former ‘MAIL’ journalist Dr Ian Malcolm said he was excited by the prospects for building better relationships at a local level. “Culturally, we have more in common than we might think and I believe that our shared heritage and our shared experiences can be a celebration of all that is important to both communities,” he said.