Catholic Bishops publish Building Peace, Shaping the Future
‘Catholic schools can play a key role in the promotion of peace and reconciliation in our society’, it was affirmed today by the Archbishop’s Working Party on Education.
Representatives from the education, voluntary and community sectors, and political parties were gathered at St Mary’s University College in Belfast at the launch of ‘Building Peace, Shaping the Future’.
This important document by the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland explores and evaluates the role and contribution which Catholic education can make towards the process of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and suggests how the distinctive contribution of Catholic education might be improved.
‘Building Peace, Shaping the Future’ has been produced in light of the significant changes and restructuring of Northern Ireland’s society over the past few years, and follows the launch of ‘Proclaiming the Mission’ in March of this year, a document which outlined the philosophy and values of Catholic education.
The two documents have been produced as a result of many months of consultation and debate amongst people of different backgrounds, views and opinions. Together they are intended to form the basis for continued debate and development of strategy on the best ways in which to achieve peace and reconciliation for the citizens of Northern Ireland.
Speaking on behalf of the Northern Bishops at the launch of Building Peace, Shaping the Future, Most Rev Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh said, “Our society in Northern Ireland has been characterised by profound conflict, and those charged with the education of our young people have an important role to play in breaking down barriers of ignorance, misunderstanding and suspicion.
“In the midst of the divisions in Northern Ireland, the bishops have constantly reiterated that tolerance is at the heart of all Christian and human education.
“While it is unfair to expect schools to heal all the divisions in our society, they are faced with a challenge to contribute as far as they are able to reconciling and cherishing diverse identities, creating a climate of openness, and encouraging young people to play a full part in a just and equitable society.”
Mrs Kathleen Bradley, Principal of Steelstown Primary School in Derry took part in the extensive consultation process which led to the production of ‘Building Peace, Shaping the Future’, and delivered the School Principal’s address. She told delegates,
“Neither of these documents are in themselves significant, but how they are perceived, understood and responded to is. They must be used to initiate discussion, to generate informed and challenging debate, to present people with the opportunity to consider the possibilities for, and provide guidance on the best ways to achieve peace and reconciliation.
“Schools and teachers in Northern Ireland have been at the forefront of conflict, misunderstanding and intolerance over the years. Today’s world is characterised by diversity, and it is our responsibility, as educators of young people to inspire, lead and educate pupils, through a commitment to shared ideals and by example of how we treat others, to respect those who hold differing views, beliefs and values.
“However, it cannot be the sole responsibility of schools. If schools are to contribute meaningfully, responsibly and successfully, we must all commit to a strategic and coherent plan for the way forward, and recognise and support existing good practice in building peace and reconciliation in our communities.”
Delegates enjoyed a number of musical presentations at the launch, performed by young people from St Michael’s College, Enniskillen, and Sacred Heart Grammar School. Official proceedings were closed with a performance of a song called ‘Look Into the Future’ by the St Gabriel’s and Mount Gilbert Cross Community Choir.
21 November 2001
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