“We all have a great responsibility to protect our fragile peace and to build on the work of our predecessors, as this work of peace is as yet unfinished.” – Irish Inter–Church Committee
At its recent meeting the Irish Inter–Church Committee agreed the following statement:
This Monday 10th of April will mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement. This is a moment of huge significance, as the Agreement represented a transformation in the relationships between the different communities in our society.
The Agreement established principles which formed a scaffolding for peace: parity of esteem, mutual recognition of identity, a commitment to partnership and consent. These principles were affirmed in referenda in both jurisdictions, to be worked out through its three strands.
While the Agreement provided the scaffolding for peace, it did not develop the peace itself. Although violence has not been completely eradicated from our societies, our expectations now are that differences will be resolved through dialogue. Nevertheless, the work of peace remains unfinished – the Agreement was a critical milestone on the journey to peace, not the destination.
Looking back at those events of 25 years ago, we give thanks for the spirit and commitment that underpinned those discussions, and the willingness of people on all sides to take risks for peace.
However, along with this thanksgiving, we also recognise that for many in our societies, whose loved ones were killed or injured in the violence of the previous 30 years, the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement brought mixed emotions. In particular, the early release of prisoners was, and continues to be, a source of great pain. For others, the anticipated peace dividend has never materialised, leading to a sense of abandonment.
Given all that was sacrificed to bring about the transformation of this conflict, today we all have a great responsibility to protect our fragile peace and to build on the work of our predecessors, as this work of peace is as yet unfinished. There is much yet to be done in reconciling our communities.
In recent years, Brexit has felt like a threat to nationalist identity, as has the Protocol for many unionists. If we are to honour the Agreement principle of mutual recognition of identity, we need to value and affirm those identities in one another, and have concern for each other when they are challenged.
As Churches in Ireland we remain committed to this reconciling vision of peace. We offer support to all who are working for a future in which relationships are restored, and all can flourish and continue to build their lives in security and peace.