The need for balance between memory and hope

Rev Dr David Latimer
Rev Dr David Latimer

This Memorial Service takes us back along the corridor of time to a dark and dreadful day in January 1972.

Sadly, all around Northern Ireland, every month is punctuated by mourning for loved-ones who tragically lost their lives, as a result of two different traditions falling into the whirlpool of a struggle that robbed us of valued family members and drove people apart.

On a morning laced with sadness it is important to remember we all share the past. Both sides have felt the breath of death. While some will find it difficult to acknowledge people on “the other side” also suffered the reality is, nobody has a monopoly of pain. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.’(Robbie Burns)

If we can accept that we all share the past, this could assist us to see how we all have a stake in the future. No one in his or her right mind wants to return to the past. Virtually everyone desperately desires a better future. However, if a better inclusive future is to take shape, we will need to find some equilibrium between memory and hope. It is worth keeping within our sights the slogan painted onto a gable wall in Belfast which said, ‘the nation that keeps two eyes on the past is blind; the nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise.’We must never forget the past or seek to erase the memory of loved ones who lost their lives as a result of violent conflict. Notwithstanding, for the sake of our children and grand children, we must urgently search for a balance that allows people to recall the past and yet to do it in a way that will not deflect from the ultimate prize of creating a sustainable culture of peace for generations of our families still unborn.

Multitudes of young people growing up around this city have a clear vision of how they wish to live in a divided society. Accepting we’re at our most imaginative when we’re young should induce us to listen to our children and young people whose fresh, creative ideas and perspectives can be helpful in finding solutions. One of 70 peace pledges, recently composed by pupils in the Pathway to Peace Initiative, illustrates the wisdom residing in our schools and colleges. It reads, ‘hurt was caused, pain was endured: but our city needs a future, not just a past; we pledge to be part of this peaceful future.’

Every school’s peace pledge in the Derry City Council area and East Donegal conveys an equally powerful message and has the potential to facilitate peace building across our city and beyond.

Inspired by our children surely makes us want to make where we’re living a little bit better. ‘Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart.’ (Henry Wordsworth Longfellow).

PRAYER - Heavenly Father you have not made us for darkness and death but for life with you forever. You are our strength and our hope and with you we have nothing to fear. Speak to us now your words of Eternal Life. Lift us from anxiety and guilt to the light and peace of your presence and set the glory of your love before us through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Contributed by

Rev Dr David Latimer