Bishop Donal McKeown launches Peace Education Report on Northern Ireland and the Border Counties

11 Sep 2006





Stranmillis University College, Monday September 11th 2006


It is my pleasure to welcome you here this morning for the formal launch of
this report – The Irish Churches and Peace Education – Overview and Evaluation
of the Scope and Quality of Peace Education in Northern Ireland and the Border

This report comes at an important time in the history of this community. Many will
say that the war is more or less over. For that degree of progress we are very
grateful. The original CPEP materials were born out of time of deep and painful
brutality in the late 70s. And it is to the credit of leading figures in the Churches
that this programme was put in place. Not only were Church leaders and members actively
and publicly involved in conversations at a time when political parties were still
decades away from having any sort of conversation. The 16 Church organisations involved
in CPEP were working together to promote peace education and to build relationships.
And they were proud to use that language of peace. That programme continued throughout
the bitter 80s and was eventually discontinued in 2002. And it is important that we
thank all those who worked away quietly and with generosity over the years in the
implementation of the programmes. Elaine Hall’s excellent short history of the programme,
launched just over a year ago on 31st August 2005, at least records the names of those
whose passion drove the work over 27 years.

But while the war may be over, the conflict about the identity and future of NI is
alive and well. Therefore it can be unhelpful just to talk of a divided society here
without acknowledging the elephant in the corner, the reality of a deep identity crisis
waiting to be exploited in a thousand ways. Thus the challenge of making peace here,
of going beyond ceasefires and stand-offs, is as real as ever. Furthermore, the CPEP
was never just focussed on our local situation, though we have our particular challenges.
Violence, war and un-peace are to be found throughout the world and many people are much
more frightened about the future than they were even a decade ago. The 20th century saw
our technological world develop such high quality killing machines that we slaughtered
about 100m human beings. It is perhaps significant that we are launching this report
on the fifth anniversary of the events that came to be known as 9/11. War and destruction
are daily features of our papers and other media. Furthermore, we all know that there
are many conflict situations in families and neighbourhoods, in schools and churches,
on the sports field and off it. Peace-making is not just about stopping people throwing
stones at each other or burning down shops.

That local and international reality is the context within which the Trustees of the CPEP
have been considering whether and how we might continue to contribute not just to peace-making
here but to promoting peace-making skills as a core part of education. We were very happy
when the two University Colleges with a specific emphasis on Initial Teaching Training
agreed so enthusiastically to undertake this piece of research on our behalf. Their faith
traditions were not an obstacle but rather a real asset in their joint look at both the
past and the way forward. The Trustees are very grateful to the leadership teams in the
two colleges and to the research team for their enthusiasm and generosity in undertaking
this work. We had agreed a professional fee for the work but we believe that we got
tremendous value for our investment, both in terms of content and of presentation.

B: Co-Chairs of Steering Group
I am delighted that the Co-chairs of the Steering Group could be here as well as the
researchers. They are the ones who have agreed to give an overview of their work for us.
And I would first welcome

Professor Richard McMinn, Principal of Stranmillis University College; and
Mr. Peter Finn, Director of the Faculty of Liberal Arts in St Mary’s University College,
and erstwhile acting Principal of the College.

C: Researchers
It is great to have ideas and leadership skills. But the hard work of researching and
writing fell on other shoulders. Drs Gerry McCann and Ciara Davey are already experienced
researchers with a strong social conscience. They know this publication better than anyone
as they slaved over every word and phrase of it, seeing it from conception to birth. I
would not invite them to summarise the findings of their work.

D: Recommendations
It is one thing to write up much research and analysis. It is another thing to provide
a synthesis, to move from a look at the past and the present to a view into the future.
Recommendations have to be clear and specific. I am delighted to welcome Norman Richardson,
a senior member of the staff here, a member of the Steering Group and Education Officer
of the CPEP from 1982-1994. He will present some of the key findings and recommendations
for the future.

E: Preliminary Response
As the wise person once said, “It is better to be unhappy with the right questions,
than happy with the wrong answers.” This report does not just give a narrow analysis
of the effectiveness of the programmes that were introduced. It also gives a most
helpful analysis of

– Worldwide thinking on peace education;
– The value of local initiatives by statutory and non-statutory bodies;
– The developing local educational scene, with which realities we have to engage.

And, while appreciating the work that has been done, the Report is aware that funders
do not give too much credit for work already done, perhaps in a different environment.
The challenge is how we should engage with current and emerging realities. In this
respect the authors of this document have given us a number of areas that deserve our
attention. But they also give a very firm encouragement that the area of peace education
is not just a possible niche market for the Churches but a real imperative. The current
rapidly changing environment will drag us all beyond our comfort zones. The choice is
to engage or to flee.
Many will feel like fleeing or cutting themselves off because the environment is complex.
Churches cannot afford to do that if they want to be true to their mission. Peace education
has to grapple with all the priorities of our society. The Shared Future strategy is one
of them and a vital one at that. But that strategy will not solve all our problems because
we have to cope with other challenges such as

– Domestic and other gratuitous violence
– Illiteracy
– Social exclusion
– Addiction and suicide
– Social fragmentation
– Economic development
– The increasingly multi-cultural nature of our society and work force.

As a society we have to be acutely aware of all of these. As we know, there are no
simplistic solutions to complex problems!

As Trustees we have the responsibility for proposing new ways forward for our contribution
to peace education here. That will not be easy. Funding deadlines can sometimes lead to
inadequately prepared proposals. But without some funding, the viability of a programme
comes into question. Furthermore, we know that a churches initiative for schools will
have less credibility if it is not part of larger commitment to education for peace
across our church bodies and practice. We have to practice what we preach.

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)                                   
Notes to Editors:

* Bishop Donal McKeown is the Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor and a member
of the Irish Bishops’ Conference Commission on Education.
* A photograph of Bishop McKeown is available on request from the Catholic
Communications Office.
* The Churches Peace Education Programme was established in 1978 by the Irish
Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church’s Irish Commission for Justice
and Peace (later renamed Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs). It
employed staff to produce and distribute materials and resources in peace education,
community relations and cultural heritage for use in schools, churches and cross-border
communities. Due to funding constraints, the existing programme and resource centre
were closed in September 2005 to enable the trustees to clarify future needs and
directions for the Programme to take.
* The fifteen member churches of the Irish Council of Churches are: Presbyterian
Church of Ireland, Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, LifeLink Network
of Churches, Lutheran Church in Ireland, Moravian Church, five Orthodox churches,
Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, Religious Society of Friends/Quakers,
Rock of Ages Cherubim and Scraphim Church and the Salvation Army (Ireland Division).