Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Insights from Northern Ireland

I watched 2 of the BBC programmes with Desmond Tutu in N Ireland, bringing some of his experience in "Truth and Reconciliation" to bear on a different situation. Riveting, harrowing stuff.
The Rwanda connection is two-fold - one of the main themes was how people can live alongside those who have murdered family members and one of Tutu's assistants was the Scottish widow of a Rwandan genocide victim.
The Northern Ireland setting made me realise how relatively minor is the sectarianism in the West of Scotland and how much deeper is the trauma in Rwanda. But can we compare these things?
The recruiting, grooming and training of young men by paramilitaries on both sides was very striking to me - some of them were deeply ensnared in the violence before they had left their teens and it completely shaped their worlds. It took growth into middle age, changing of the political situation, personal tragedies and often prison before they "repented" (not necessarily in the Christian sense, but in thinking differently). The leading astray or corrupting of the young always seems to me one of the most culpable of things.

If there was even a tiny insight into Rwanda, it was how deeply the grief of bereavement by violence can affect individuals and families, how difficult it can be to come to terms with and how long the effects can last. To use Tutu's words, it was indeed "humbling" to get a glimpse of other people's lives like this. I don't believe that outside of prayer, there is really anything we can do to prepare ourselves for facing this in Rwanda. It is too unimaginable. Humbling.....

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