Gospel nonviolence in action: Case study from the UK (Northern Ireland)

Looking down from Corrymeela. Image by Michael Kooiman, Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA

Looking down from Corrymeela. Image by Michael Kooiman, Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA

What does Gospel nonviolence look like in action? The Fellowship of Reconciliation held a joint conference with the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship looking at this, and included a talk from the Revd David Mumford. Over a series of 14 blogs, some short and some longer, he outlines the different themes and topics covered in his presentation. 

Civil strife is more likely to break out in places where it has taken place in the past and where the work of reconciliation has not been carried through. A recent sad example is that of South Sudan.

It takes time to build up sufficient fear of the other to resort to violence; even where as in Ireland there had been a bloody conflict and significant ethnic cleansing within living memory. It took Hitler five years to get the German people to turn a blind eye to the persecution of Jews. Often the best time to intervene is before violent conflict starts and to build up the knowledge and training, the personal contacts, a culture and solidarity that can counteract violence. In the late sixties the civil rights challenge to Unionist hegemony in Northern Ireland was strong – but violence was not the only option. In 1965 Ray Davey, who had witnessed the bombing of Dresden at first hand when he was a prisoner of war, and a group mainly from Queens University took over a semi-derelict Christian Fellowship holiday home on the north coast, named Corrymeela.

Over time a residential and a dispersed community developed who slowly renovated the buildings; they later put on major trainings in nonviolence and acted as a permanent centre for mediation and reconciliation work, paving the way for a ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement. I was working with the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Derry/Londonderry and we regularly took groups of youngsters (half and half catholic and protestant) on summer weeks holidays. True, when they got back to Derry/Londonderry they would not see each other until the next visit to Corrymeela – but it was encouraging years afterwards to find that people on the council after the Good Friday Agreement still remembered playing football with each other – and it has added to the glue that makes future violence much less likely.