Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nothing covered up

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
-Luke 12:2-3
We felt like we were in a war-zone right away. On one side of the river we were welcomed into the city with red, white, and blue and a sign that read “Londonderry – West Bank – Loyalists Still Under Siege – No Surrender.” On the other we were greeted by green, white, and orange and a sign that read “You Are Now Entering Free Derry” to introduce a host of disturbing murals commemorating the victims of Bloody Sunday (1972) and the Troubles. The tension was almost palpable.

I had come to Derry to deliver a gift to a Franciscan friar, and had failed to connect the city I was visiting with the news of the previous week: 38 years after the shootings in Derry that had served as an iconic representation of the Troubles, the Saville Report had just been published a week earlier, and the British government officially recognized the killings as atrocities.

The killings had become burned in the Irish memory, a travesty of justice white-washed by the perpetrators which, even if extreme, was certainly an iconic example of what they suffered throughout the centuries. Over lunch on Sunday I was struck by two things: how present the pain still is (an Irish couple described the sheer terror they had experienced whenever they had to drive through the North and stood the risk of being shot if they failed to notice a road blockade), and how much an apology makes a difference nonetheless. Present pain not withstanding, there were seeds of hope and goodwill.

Though there is nothing pragmatic about it, no tangible removal of consequence, confession is nevertheless powerful. When a party can strip its pride and dignity to say “I was absolutely wrong,” can expose hidden (in this case, quite ineffectively) wrongs to the light, can do so even when they are decades old and even if the admission is not forced, there is a place for healing. Some wrongs cannot be “made right”; they can only be admitted to be wrong. And no wrongs are private wrongs; all are public, and can only be healed publicly.

This past weekend, I was given hope for that healing in Northern Ireland, and it was beautiful indeed.

* * *

A few recommended articles:

No comments: