Pupils’ participation in peace-building is imperative

Rev. Dr. David Latimer pictured at Monreagh Presbyterian Church for a special service held to celebrate his 25 years in ministry. (1604PG49)
Rev. Dr. David Latimer pictured at Monreagh Presbyterian Church for a special service held to celebrate his 25 years in ministry. (1604PG49)

If Professor Brewer is right in saying ‘it seems as if we’re bouncing along the bottom’ and if Dr Haass is accurate when he says ‘violence could very well emerge as a characteristic of daily life,’ are we not being alerted to something worthy of serious and thoughtful reflection namely, we may no longer be where we once were, but we’re no where near where we need to be...

Progress has undeniably been considerable, yet none of us should be satisfied by it because the journey to a reconciled shared future is still a long way off.

It is a daunting thing to re- build trust between two peoples with a lengthy and bitter history of conflict. Divided societies, such as ours however, must find a way to do it, otherwise we may witness the collapse of all that has been built during the past decade and a half and if that were to happen we shall, to our shame, be proved once more to be unteachable!

American physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, ‘I find the greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.’ If our future and that of our children is to be better than our past, we must neither drift or lie at anchor, but keep moving forward. And who better to help us on our way than the children and young people growing up in every city, town, village and rural community.

Rarely have these voices been offered a platform to share their words and impart their wisdom. To address this deficit, every school embracing the Primary, post-Primary, Controlled, Maintained, Irish Medium, Integrated and Special Care sectors within the Western Education and Library Board, is being given the opportunity to express, in a 25-word ‘Peace Pledge’, what we each need to do so as to live better together. A typical example of the energy and brightness resident within our schools and colleges is refreshingly couched in the words of one pledge which reads ‘ imagine

a future without any violence; accept the past and make friends not enemies; if we work together we can create a better future.’

Sixty schools/colleges in Derry/Londonderry and a further ten in Donegal have already submitted their Peace Pledges. These have been imprinted onto stone plaques to create a new Pathway to Peace around Ireland’s first Peace Flame, which is located close to the city’s Guildhall. Schools/colleges in the Omagh District Council area are currently composing pledges and shortly, schools/colleges in other towns west of the Bann, will be participating .Plans to develop and expand this bespoke peace building initiative will be announced in the near future.

Clearly, young people must not only be seen - they must be heard. Untainted by the past, their vibrant ideas and fresh perspectives can help lead our country along a path to peace and prosperity.

Therefore, let us acknowledge and celebrate what youth can do to shape a fairer, safer living space for all. Moreover, let us include them in policies and programmes that will benefit their future and ours.

Pupils participating in peace-building will, unquestionably, assist us to move out of the shifting sands and onto solid ground, which is the only foundation for a palace of peace, where people of every age, creed and culture can practice living in a symphony of brotherhood.


Rev Dr David Latimer