(very honoured to have this article published on http://eamonnmallie.com)
The 4 Corners Festival set out five years ago to get people out of their corners of Belfast and find new geography, new perspective and new friends. We were keen to make the Church positive and imaginative contributors to the reconciliation on the street, getting Jesus out from behind the walls of Churches and on to the frontlines.
As we deal with a strange feeling that I term post festival blues we immediately start asking how we have done. We will glance across every event and pause at all the moments, the sentences, the after event cups of coffee and try to distil something of what went on.
Paul Brady’s song The Island got more than one mention this week. While the more obvious lines, “Still trying to reach the future through the past/Still trying to carve tomorrow from a tombstone”, swept in and out of many of the conversations, I was most struck by, “Now I know us plain folks don't see all the story/And I know this peace and love's just copping out”.
What this festival affirmed to me was that peace and love is not copping out. That peace and love are a courageous thing. “It’s harder wage peace than war,” Barack Obama had told us at the Waterfront back in 2013.
“Fighting to make peace” as my friends Lies Damned Lies once sang is difficult. That came through as Paul Gallagher shared how he fought to make sure his family didn’t take the “other” side and seek revenge for the random UFF attack that left him in a wheel chair.
It came through as Mary Moreland talked through her coming to terms with the fact that her husband had been killed as she walked across the school playground to meet a policeman and how she had to keep it together for her young children.
It came through as John Martin shared about his University years and for the first time coming to terms with his father’s death in the Poly bomb, before he was even born. Faith had been a resource for heavy leaning on. It was the unsaid that struck me; John’s mother’s bravery in bringing her son and daughter up while going through that trauma.
It came through when Joe McKeown talked about the hatred that he held for the British soldiers who shot his Grandfather dead. “God took me to places I didn’t want to go,” he told us. “I broke down as I held a Union flag and cried like a baby.”
Colin Davidson’s profound declaration that the eighteen portraits in his Silent Testimony exhibition weren't about the past but about now is a key that unlocks our attempts to deal with the past. Paul, Mary, John and Joe are committed to working for peace. Their past impacts their now, their every single day, but their courageous decision every day is to seek a better future for all. A future Paul Gallagher suggested about simply stopping doing things that hurt each other.
During our Festival Sunday service, on BBC Radio Ulster, Fr Martin Magill confessed the more difficult parts of Scripture are the bits he does understand. When you understand you have to apply! For me the most difficult thing of the whole Festival to process was Trevor Morrow’s preach on Philippians chapter 2. In that chapter, in the context of a divided little Christian community, the apostle Paul tells us to be have the same mind as Christ Jesus.
Trevor drew out three steps in the process of reconciliation that are in Paul’s writing. Firstly, Jesus gave up his rights and privileges and secondly he served his enemy. Thirdly, and here is where it gets brave, he sacrificed his own life to be reconciled. I mean it is obvious every Sunday in Church or Chapel or wherever Christians worship. However, when Trevor applied it to our Northern Irish enmities I was stopped in my tracks at the demands. The one hurt, the one on the receiving end of the injustice becomes the one who takes the blame and pain of reconciliation on themselves. Goodness me.
The 4 Corners Festival can be seen as lovely. Ten days when people across the corners of Belfast, drew seats or pews together in different corners. Strangers met over coffee. Great art was performed, a Snow Patrol guitarist even showed up, food was eaten and carers were rightfully shown a little care, the Shankill and Falls got walked. The challenge though was not pretty or nice. It was hard ball. This is the stuff of changing the way things were and are now into what they might possibly be. It is not for the faint hearted!