Mission to Northern Ireland (01.07.2009)

01 - 08 July, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Study trip to Northern Ireland organized by Soma Akriton. The mission consisted of 19 young people (14-18 years old) from both communities of Cyprus. The group met prior to the journey, got prepared and set specific targets. Participants had to play the role of reporters, with the mission to:
• investigate the problem of Northern Ireland and compare it with the Cyprus problem
• see how the youth in N. Ireland views their conflict.
• study the methods used in N. Ireland to bring the two communities together.

The program was executed with the cooperation of Spirit of Enniskillen Trust, a N. Irish organization specializing in peace building. The program consisted of various workshops like ‘Dealing with differences’, ‘The troubles’, ‘Bloody Sunday’, and ‘Share Future’, which were enhanced by educational excursions like the one in ‘Stormont’, the Home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, were the group had the opportunity to learn how the Parliament works, and spend time in the Halls where political talks take place.

The group was astonished by the ‘Wall of Peace’ in Belfast, since the Wall in contrast with its name actually divides in two the two communities of Protestants and Catholics. The young Cypriots were stunned by the fact that there is an actual wall, 16km long and 6m high, compared to the imaginary ‘green line’ that exists in Cyprus. The young Cypriots had a tour in both sides of the Wall, saw the places where the Troubles took place and the impressive murals on the walls of the surrounding houses, and had the opportunity to speak with young people of both communities of N. Ireland, Protestants and Catholics.

Another interesting tour was the visit to Derry, a wall city known for the conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The tour took place inside and outside the walls, by two different people, one Protestant and one Catholic. Both of them lived through the time of the Troubles, and the young Cypriots heard two different stories regarding the conflict, as well as the city’s two names, Derry for the Catholics and London Derry for the Protestants. Talking with the civilians of the city, the group was confused whether there is really peace in N. Ireland, since the citizens of this city are living separately; there is no interaction and no trust between the two communities.

The mission also included some excursions to nature: visit to the ‘Botanic Gardens’, to the ‘Giant’s Causeway’ and to the ‘Carrick-a-Rope’ rope bridge. Overall, the young Cypriots had the opportunity to stay and work together, to share feelings, emotions and thoughts. The young Cypriots saw that beyond the differences between the two local communities in N. Ireland, a big number of people were working together for a better future, people who no longer want to see war, destruction and loss of friends and family, and decided to disregard their differences. The mission concluded with positives feelings, new friendships and with a strong united voice for a shared future.