A cross community delegation from Belfast and North Down recently completed an informative and stimulating visit to Berlin to explore issues of reconciliation in a divided country.
The site visit took place in October 2013 and forms part of the ‘Exploring the Past Together for a Better Future’ project managed by Ashton Community Trust via its Bridge of Hope programme. The overall project is financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the PEACE III Programme for Peace and Reconciliation managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
The Berlin trip brought together 20 individuals to explore local peace efforts in a country that was controversially divided and then reunited in 1989 with fall of the Berlin Wall. Key to the visit was the opportunity given to participants to spend time to assess the implications of division and reconciliation after conflict.
The delegation visited a number of areas of interest including the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Museum, Gestapo Headquarters, the Reichstag and a number of war memorials. Another highlight involved meeting conflict resolution expert Beatrix Austin from the Berghof Foundation, a specialist centre of conflict transformation.
Michael Goodman, Legacy Coordinator said the German site visit underpinned the whole ethos of the project’s bid to better understand reconciliation after conflict.
“The trip provided valuable opportunities for the participants to connect with issues around the legacy of conflict and division. The visit to the Berghof Foundation validated our position that reconciliation is built from the ground up and is a two way process, it certainly can’t be left solely to political leaders to cultivate. The site visit to Berlin was important for many reasons for participants. For us we believe it created the right space to explore reconciliation in a new but relevant context. It further confirms for us that this work at grassroots level is vital for the continued consolidation of civic peace building processes.”
Head of Victims Services at Ashton Community Trust Irene Sherry commented that, “The Berlin visit proved to be a tremendous success and showed that despite the very obvious tensions on the ground in Belfast and other areas, there is a willingness and commitment at community level for people to sit down and discuss the problems we face. Bridge of Hope looks forward to building and further enhancing our relationship with the Berghof Institute in the lead up to and after our next visit in 2014.”
The ‘Exploring the Past Together for a Better Future’ project consists of a number of different conflict themed strands and is aimed at helping communities address some of the complex issues arising from the conflict. The project hopes to reconnect individuals from communities which experienced a significant proportion of conflict related deaths, injury, trauma and violence. Areas such as North Belfast, West Belfast, Derry, North Down, and East Antrim are all being targeted.
Notes to Editors:
- The Berlin visit was part of the “Exploring the Past together for a Better Future” project and involved participants who had previously engaged with either “Who Am I?” or “Making Sense of the Past in the Present” programmes.
- For further information about the Exploring the Past Together for a Better Future project contact Irene Sherry at Ashton Community Trust 028 90746737
- The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU structural funds Programmes PEACE III and INTERREG IV designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society. The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland.
- Part of the European Regional Development Fund’s PEACE III Programme, specifically priority 1.2 which deals with acknowledging and dealing with the past is implemented by the Consortium of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council and Pobal. Working together these organisations will be able to ensure a wide-range of expertise and experience is brought to bear in addressing these sensitivities and emotive issues.
- For more information on the SEUPB please visit www.seupb.eu
- For more information about Bridge of Hope and Ashton Community Trust please visit www.ashtoncentre.com and www.thebridgeofhope.org