IRISH DIARY…VISITING BELFAST

  • While we were driving through the streets of Belfast we were reminded of the violent and bloody history of this city. We passed in front of the Europa Hotel, a hotel that was bombed more times than any other hotel in the world. In the last forty years hundreds of innocent men, women and children have lost their lives on the altar of religion and nationalism, freedom and independence. Some people ask:

    Are these people who kill and get killed freedom fighters or terrorists?

    The answer depends which side of the fence or the street one asks the question.

              Some optimists told us that in the new parliament, representatives from the Right and the Left, Catholics and Protestants, Republicans and Unionists have joined hands and promised their communities that they would work together for the betterment of all.

              There are others who are skeptics. They warned us that it is a honeymoon period. Orangemen are getting ready for July 12th celebration fully aware that they might be challenged by their opponents. They tell us that hostilities run deep in this town and there are still some who are waiting for the right time to take revenge as their egos and prides have been bruised repeatedly. Belfast seems to be a city of divided loyalties and identities.

    People ask themselves:

    Are we Irish or British?

    Are we Catholics, Protestants or Christians?

    Are we patriots or traitors?

    Each side feels self-righteous and rationalizes violence in the most irrational way.

              In this city there are Catholic and Protestant fathers who want their children to go to the same school and play in the same playground to replace hate with love.

              In this city there are mothers who take part in peace rallies to show that people on both sides who were killed, who lost their precious lives were children of the same Mother Earth. These mothers want the war to stop, the era of hostilities to end. They want the new generation to live in peace and harmony.

              Belfast is cautiously moving forward in search of peace. There are peace lovers like me all over the world who hope that the dream of peace comes true and both sides burry the hatchet, say goodbye to guns and bombs and embrace each other for the sake of future generations.

    We ask ourselves:

    Is it a wishful dream or are we in denial?

    Are we looking at the bright future or hiding our heads in sand like ostriches?

    Only time will tell the truth, as time is the best judge.

                                                                                          Sohail

                                                                                          July, 2007       

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