When Northern Ireland’s constitutional convention dissolved in disarray last spring, many observers predicted a new outbreak of killing, a stepped-up IRA offensive, even open civil war. That never happened, and now the Peace People have proved once again the folly of trying to prophesy events in that troubled country.
Recently, Protestant and Catholic women, fed up with eight years of violence and empty political rhetoric, joined in an unprecedented show of unity. Some 20,000 of them marched together in Belfast to demand peace. No one was more surprised than the beleaguered citizens themselves, and few expected anything to come of it. However, the movement has grown, and while both the IRA and Ian Paisley have denounced it, one Belfast paper editorialized, “the ordinary, decent Northern Irishwoman and man have found their voice, and they like the sound of it better than the voices that have been loudly raised in their name over the last eight years.”
More Americans confess to not understanding the Northern Ireland conflict than to not understanding the Middle East or the situation in Cyprus or Africa or other world hot spots. The most frequently asked question: “Is it a religious war?”
The ugly spectacle of two Christian bodies resolving their differences through violence makes most Christians shudder. Yet bloody battles in the name of Christianity are nothing new. Right after the Reformation, Catholic-Protestant wars raged in Europe, and churchmen all too often had a hand in assassinations, massacres, and political machinations.
Although the Ulster conflict has been complicated by religion, it is much more than a denominational war. Political power, civil rights, economic discrimination, deep-seated ...1
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