Peace Walls 

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‭‭‬ Proverbs 18:19 “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.”

Peace Walls’ or ‘Defence Walls?’ 
The Peace Walls in Northern Ireland were build in 1969. They are a series of tall walls, some with spiked fences on top, serving as separation barriers between Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods during ‘The troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Initially, they were built as temporary structures meant to last only six months, but because of their effectiveness, they became wider, longer and more permanent. Today, long after the Troubles are over and we are trying very hard as a community to put all of our painful, bitter history where it belongs – in the past, and move forward, these huge so called Peace Walls remain, keeping divisions firmly in place, both figuratively and literally. Today, we have a total of 48 of these Walls. They stretch over 21 miles (34 km), with most located in Belfast. The Government is working on plans to take down the walls by 2023.

‘Choosing to Live With The Walls’

One of the great things I love about the culture of Northern Ireland though, is the tenacity and ingenuity. Banksy has nothing on us when it comes to murals! Belfast is covered in them – many of them, unfortunately sectarian, but despite that many of these murals are beautifully painted. So a lot of the peace walls were not left plain ugly old breeze block and razor wire – oh no! On both sides can be seen some of the most striking and outstanding works of street art. The local tour companies include a tour of some of the Peace Walls as part of their open-top bus tour.

So when my husband and I were chatting this morning about the 2023 agreement to take the Walls down, I made the comment that it would be a shame in a way, because they’ve become part of our history. And they bring in extra money for tourism.
Then the thought occurred to me how ridiculous that statement sounded. And how very like that we are in our hearts, so often. So entrenched are our walls that we choose, instead of tearing them down, to just live with them and make the best of them that we can. We paint pretty murals on the outside and pretend everything is fine, while deep inside we are crying out for connection.

Jesus warned us that offenses would come, and that offense destroys relationships. We need to learn how to forgive quickly, to avoid building those so called ‘Peace Walls’ in our hearts.
“Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!”(Luke‬ ‭17:1‬)

We become offended, hurt, or angry so we build a wall. Just a ‘little one’, a temporary structure to hide our heart behind from the other person or people, until the trouble subsides. But that one little temporary structure, just like that first wall in Belfast, soon becomes a little more fortified. Then a second structure goes up, and so on, until before you know, your heart is ‘walled in’.
In Luke‬ ‭17:3-4‬ ‭Jesus says: “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Jesus isn’t asking me to be a doormat, but he is warning me here to “pay attention” to my own heart attitude when someone does something wrong against me. No matter how slight that offence seems to me, if I hold onto it, it has damaging consequences for me.

Every single person who has ever lived on earth, has been offended and will be offended at some time during their life.
The words “Offence, offended, offend, offended and offender appear a total of seventy-three times in the Bible.

Jesus doesn’t blithely allow the person who is the offender off the hook either. He is so serious about this issue that he pronounces a solemn “woe” against those “through whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:7. Luke 17:1)

However it isn’t our job to concern ourselves with the person who has hurt or offended us. That’s God’s job. Our job is to take care of our attitude towards that person, for the sake of our own relationship with God and others.

2 Timothy‬ ‭2:23-24‬

“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.”

‭‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:10 “And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other.”

‭‭‬ Proverbs 18:19 “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.”

‭‭Let’s choose today, to forgive quickly, to move past offence, to not allow that first defence structure – posing as a so-called ‘Peace Wall’, to go up. Otherwise we could find ourselves, like Northern Ireland, many years later, with those Walls entrenched and incorporated and accepted into our everyday life.
Jill McIlreavy 💜

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