A few months ago I caught the BBC documentary More Than A Flag, part of the series True North. The first thing I heard was a young man, driving through East Belfast, saying, “My favourite day of the year is the Twelfth.” I expected the stereotypical and almost switched over. I am glad I didn’t.
The documentary followed playwright Dan Gordon as he produced a play with some young bandsmen from East Belfast. A few of the men share their thoughts about bands, flags, the Somme and Northern Ireland.
What moved me most were the words of a young bandsman. There is a scene where he sitting in his garden and he says, “you associate flutes with a band… bands are bad or so they say… they're not… when you get to know them…” There is sadness in his eyes, as his voice tails off.
The late Rev. Tom Wilson, who had been a social worker before he was a minister once told me that the closest thing to love is to be listened to. I know that in myself. When someone listens to you, it is like a hug or a kiss. You feel valued… loved. When we try to follow Jesus command to love our neighbours… and more than that our enemies… we can start by listening.
We haven’t been good at loving our neighbours or enemies in Northern Ireland. It has been tragic in its consequences. We are good at talking, prone to shouting, we love preaches and speeches. When Bono sings, “it’s hard to listen while you preach” he was on to something.
My good friend, Fr Martin Magill goes on about how we need more Keynote Listeners then Keynote Speakers. So, this years the 4 Corners Festival that we both help organise is all about listening. Listening to our history with the 1916 Centenaries, listening to our streets, listening to the new members of our society, listening to songs of Belfast, listening to young men and women in both sides of our divided society who feel misunderstood, not listened to, unloved.
Loving our neighbours… and enemies… by listening…
More Than A Flag will be shown in The Long Room, Stormont on Friday, February 5th at 7pm with the Directors, Dan Gordon and some of the bandsmen speaking… free…