Saturday, August 7, 2010

A City Divided

A ‘Peace Line’ cuts the capital city of Northern Ireland in half. Euphemistically named, it is actually a series of twenty-six walls of brick and corrugated iron that separate the Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast. It was built in the tumultuous years of religious and political strife known as the Troubles, but even today, gates in the walls are locked each evening and every weekend.

Tour guides are quick to point out that it’s best to stay with one’s own, and take no risks going into areas where a welcome is not assured.
It is the familiar mantra of my childhood, made all the more chilling by decades of strife that have made this division worse, not better.

On a visit to my birth city three years ago, I was devastated to see the damage that’s been done in the name of liberation. In thirty plus years of civil war, the city has ceased to grow. Though my first time back in many years, I might have stepped off a bus anywhere and found my way to the town centre, so little has the city grown in size.
The ravages of time are evident on every street. The ubiquitous Peace Line fences abruptly end streets, and
are boldly marked with sectarian graffiti.

On a rain-soaked day, we drove past Divis Tower, situated by the fence that separates the opposing factions of the Falls Road and the Shankill Road. It is the sixth tallest building in the Seventies, the British Army occupied the top two floors. It was a hot spot during the Troubles, particulary after an Army sniper at the top shot and killed an IRA member on the ground below.

Ruin is to be found everywhere.
The Crumlin Road Courthouse was designed by architect, Charlie Lanyon.
A stunningly beautiful building, it closed its doors in 1998, and sits unused behind a tall fence topped with barbed wire.

Everything about Belfast has been changed by the fighting. Today, it resembles nothing more than a war zone. Indeed, it brings to mind the Israeli Apartheid Wall between Israel and Palestinian West Bank, which has its own bloody history of confrontation. The similarities are patently obvious, and equally distressing. When will we start breaking down walls, not building more? When will human life become more important than religious differences or property lines? I don’t have an answer, but I know we must find one.

Israeli Apartheid Wall

Belfast Murals Wall

We are a planet in crisis. No longer do we have the luxury, or the promise, of pristine air and bountiful food for all. As a species, we are using up resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished. Greed and selfishness have become the driving forces that threaten our children’s futures, and put the whole world in peril. This is not a time to divide, but to unify. We are one family on earth, no matter which God we chose to follow,
and like a family, must trust one another and work together to heal our weary world. .
At the end of our first day in Belfast, still reeling with shock at the desecration of my beloved city, we took a stroll along the banks of the River Lagan that I’d walked so often as a child. Here, little had changed. The beautiful green hills that Ireland is known for were freshly splashed with spring rain, and the pristine river was still home to the stately swans I had always admired. As if to remind us that beauty can thrive even in the midst
of horror, the sun peeked through the clouds and a glorious rainbow began to form in front of our eyes.

I choose to see it is a sign of things to come, an acknowledgement that dreadful damage can be undone, and reason can prevail once more.

For the sake of the world's future, I have to believe that I 'm right.


Sherry Blue Sky said...

A wonderful post. So awesome to get an inside look at what we hear generalities about. You speak eloquently to the problems humanity is facing. I love the rainbow reminder that beauty can still exist in the midst of all human folly. It is an amazing miracle. Really interesting post. I loved seeing the photos and reading your thoughtful commentary. Great post!

Tete said...

Lynette, It says we can never go home again, but your story is so eye opening at the what can happen when hate rules a world.
Maybe someday, people will figure out that everyone loses in the fighting.
We are one family and we are one world and we all serve the same god, we just call him a different name.
And he trusted us with all of this and we have ruined his wonderful creation, one grain of sand at a time.
You have such a beautiful message to share with the world and your photographs tell what words cannot say.
Love your blog.
Blessings and Hugs- Tete

ninotaziz said...

Lovely Lynette.
Love is powerful but sadly, is difficult to hold on to in a clasped hand.

While peace and acceptance might be elusive. hope will bring us through the gates.

Love your blog.

Thank you for dropping by mine...

Systematic Weasel said...

A stunningly crafted post! Thanks for sharing! =)


Eileen T O'Neill ..... said...

Your report written with the theme of Walls and looking at it from the Belfast viewpoint, is about the most honest report that I have read for such a long time. Your view is realistic and not the rose-tinted glasses, 'touristy' view.
You have said all that I too recognise and know to be factual, in Belfast today.
We both share Belfast as a city of birth. Sadly we also both agree about the resistance, to move on, bring down the walls and just live and let live.
Lynette, thank for this excellent article.
Best wishes, Eileen said...

Beautiful images and words, you took me on a roll:D Wonderfully written^^~

Jingle said...

stunning image,
lovely write.

my wall entry

Ella said...

I love all the walls you showed us! Well Done~
Being open to your truth~

gospelwriter said...

The idea of Peace Lines (and similar, as you put it, euphemisms - the UN's "peacekeeping forces" comes to mind) never fail to get my head shaking. A wall can never translate to peace in any real sense of the word; it can only emphasize the division that was already there, make it stronger. When will we learn?

Loved your post...