The Beauty in Learning about Tragedy

The “peace” walls constructed to separate Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland

Placing beauty and tragedy in the same headline is an obvious oxymoron. However, the true intensities of conflicts within communities abroad often go unnoticed. Yes, of course the media has its own portrayals, but seeing (especially on TV) is definitely not believing. Believing is walking the streets of Derry and Belfast, standing on one side of the wall that tears apart communities yet is named after peace. That is true belief.

My trip to Northern Ireland where the majority of the Irish conflict existed was the most eye opening experience of my life. You see things in books, feel like you’ve been there and can resonate with the victims. However, it is not until you see the dried blood on the protest banners in museums, talk to the locals and hear the words of conflict and anger emanate from them that you realize the truth.

We began our journey in Ireland in the city of Dublin. A very happy, expressive city covered in green, white, and orange. It is obvious here that the citizens are proud of their Irish culture. Then you go a few hours to the North and sentiments quickly change. You see the blatant confusion, are we part of the UK and Protestantism or part of Ireland and Catholicism? Without going into immense details of the conflict, this is where the tensions lie.

In Dublin, you tell people you are studying the Northern Ireland Conflict and they tell you that’s very interesting. Yet, when you say that in Northern Ireland it is like throwing salt in the wounds of a conflict that is still dealing with the effects of discrimination, violence, and upheaval.

Despite the tension in the air and the gloominess felt when walking the streets where bloody sunday occurred, being in Northern Ireland was an experience I know all participants in the program are thankful for.

The most amazing experience was being able to talk to those who lived through the conflict from both sides and had experienced loss as a result. We were able to hear their stories, ask them questions, and learn from their ability to forgive or move on for the sake of themselves and their families.

Although we may not hear much about a conflict, that does not mean that it does not exist. My lack of knowledge about the Northern Ireland conflict prevented me from seeing a portion of the world that has undergone a plethora of heartache and I have since achieved a feeling of awareness.

A thank you to those who expressed their vulnerabilities and opened their hearts and minds to us and many others.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

-George Santayana
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