Unification News for February 2000

RYS in Northern Ireland

by Mr. Marshall D'Souza

Mr. D'Souza is the RYS Europe coordinator.

The recent RYS project Belfast in the north of Ireland (Northern Ireland) on September 17-27 was a significant achievement for the work of peace in a region torn by historic animosity, violence and hatred. More then thirty volunteers from various Christian churches, and from Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds came from Europe, Asia, the Middle-East, North America and Africa to join with volunteers from Ireland, Northern Ireland and England at the Columbanus Reconciliation Center to construct a peace garden during a crucial time in the peace process.

Peace Garden

RYS volunteers designed and constructed a large "Peace Garden" for those that visit the Columbanus center to use for quiet prayer and reflection. The spirit of unity and reconciliation demonstrated by the participants Is critical in providing models for the people of Northern Ireland. Participants and staff worked extremely hard, not pausing when a day of torrential rains ripped through Belfast. The six days of labor provided a time for the RYS to accomplish both the work goals and build a spirit of family.

Visitors, observers and even participants found it hard to believe that so much could be accomplished in such a short time period. Participants took pride in their achievement for they worked with the attitude that, "This work is our way to contribute to the process of building peace".

Healing and Reconciliation: Beyond the physical work was the great challenge of developing trust and friendship, critical elements in building an environment of peace. This challenge was also meet successfully. A story illustrates the way people were moved to forget deep animosity: "One old Irish observers was so excited about the international participants that he approached each member and spoke briefly to them and then prayed for each of the nations that they came from. He blessed the Japanese, the people of Bhutan the Lebanese and those from Ireland and Hungary. When he came upon a British participants (his historic enemy) he paused, smiled and then sent a pray of Blessing to the British.

Rev. Michael Teague, an African- American Baptist minister, a graduate of Princeton Seminary said that he wept throughout the week as his heart was deeply moved by the suffering of the Irish and the things that God was teaching him. [see accompanying article] He commented that he never knew that 'white people also had a suffering life' and was grateful to God for showing him the thread of our common humanity. At the conclusion of the program Rev. Teague said that for two weeks I forgot that I was black because I felt we were all family and we were living in the Kingdom of God. Rev. Teague explained that he wanted to work with the RYS for the rest of his life and he is determined to work with our members to bring RYS to his community in New Jersey .

The Columbanus Community for Reconciliation led by Rev. Glenn Barclay a Presbyterian minister from New Zealand is considered to be one of the three most important center's for reconciliation in Northern Ireland today. There is a rich spirituality at the center which houses Catholic and Protestant lay leaders.

Our connecting with the work at the center was one of those situations which come as a direct result of our being persecuted. RYS's initial plan was to work with the well known charity, Habitat for Humanity. Habitat withdrew their agreement because of the relation of RYS to Rev. Moon. As a result of this bigotry, we went at the last moment to the Columbanus Community and its leader, Rev. Barclay agreed to host us. She was actually praying for a group to come to the center and create the "Peace Garden".

Rev. Barclay, was deeply moved by the sincere efforts of RYS and appropriately dedicated the work to," The Power of God's love and the hope for peace that it provides." Members of the Columbanus community attended both the work dedication and the Bridge of Hope ceremony that immediately followed the work dedication..


This project drew support from the IRFF-Great Britain, WFWP-Ireland and Great Britain, and the IRFWP. Marshal D'Souza led the organizing team which had representatives from these organizations. Dr. Ron Burr and John Gehring led the education program.

The WFWP of Great Britain and Ireland worked together to bring citizens of Belfast and the RYS together through the ceremony of crossing the bridge. Repentance, healing and reconciliation are all part of this ceremony and the atmosphere at the new peace garden was ideal for the occasion.

IRFWP Conference on: " Reconciliation and Creating a New Vision for the Future", was excellent and added to the success of the two weeks of peace efforts. Flowing out of the RYS and the Bridge ceremony the conference rested on a strong spiritual foundation and several of the speakers were rooted in working on solutions to the "troubles". Every speaker spoke from a deeply held spiritual conviction and experience, this made the conference much more then an academic exercise. The audience of seventy walked away gaining insights and a renewed sense that things will get better.

At the conclusion of the IRFWP, John Gehring could speak on how the RYS is one project that provides a vision for future reconciliation and how these activities sprang from the vision of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and that they were creating a new paradigm for the new Millennium. Many people could begin to understand True Father more deeply which is especially important since True Father is still not allowed to enter Great Britain. Even our own members needed to experience the open testimony of how these works connected to True Parent's for they have been hit with so much negative media coverage they at a loss of how to refuse that image.

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