“You cannot claim to love your country and at the same time cause pain and destruction to the people who live there … Nothing can be built with petrol bombs or stones thrown in anger … Tonight we have gathered, not to condemn anyone, but to build bridges” – Bishop McKeown
The last week has been a very stressful time for many in this community. Emotions have been running high. Angry words have been used on various sides. And those of us in comparatively comfortable positions of leadership need to remember that a lot of our fellow citizens feel left out. They do not see the last twenty years as having benefitted them. Some communities that suffered much in the past are still suffering disadvantage. There are young people who feel life is passing them by and looking down on them.
But if there is one lesson that the people of this city have learned over the years, it is that violence and destruction do not help anyone. They do not advance any cause. We have discovered that talking is the only way that builds people up. Destruction and aggression end up damaging the very communities that some people claim to be defending. You cannot claim to love your country – and, at the same time, cause pain and destruction to the people who live there. All who live here are part of this country. All deserve to be cherished equally.
Tonight we have gathered, not to condemn anyone, but to build bridges. We want a city where everyone feels they have a future. We have lost too many people because they had lost hope in the future. We believe that we have the human resources to create a community where all our fellow citizens feel included. We believe that everyone here has something unique and valuable to contribute to a better future.
Those of us who have gathered here have come because we love this city and all its people. We seek the welfare of all. But we are determined that this great city will not be drawn back into a repetition of the terrible years of awful suffering and loss. We will speak out against those who promote only destruction and despair. Nothing can be built with petrol bombs or stones thrown in anger. The foundation for a happy future will be built on dialogue and inclusion.
Tonight, on behalf of so many in our city, I say
the people of Derry deserve better than violence;
the people of Derry are capable of so much better than violence;
the people of Derry are proud of their city and want to welcome people here, not frighten them off.
In the city of the three bridges, can we start mending bridges tonight and walking forward together?
- Bishop Donal McKeown is Bishop of Derry.