RDC Good Relations Officers inspired by South Africa trip
26 May 2011
Good Relations Officers Yvonne Breen and John Kelly have participated in a study trip to South Africa.
As part of the ‘Journeys Out’ project RDC Good Relations Officers Yvonne Breen and John Kelly along with the other project participants from across Northern Ireland and the border counties undertook a study visit to South Africa from 7th – 15th May 2011.
‘Journeys Out’ aims to engage a new generation of community leaders in the debate about ‘dealing with the past’. It allows participants explore these issues within local communities and learn more from international experiences following conflict. The project has been funded under Peace III programme and is being delivered by a consortium of partner groups, namely University of Ulster, INCORE, Glencree Centre for Peace & Reconciliation Intercomm Belfast and the Peace & Reconciliation Group, Derry. All of these project partners are well established and long experienced community activists in peace building work across Ireland.
The purpose of the visit was to look at the South African conflict and the approaches the South African authorities have used to deal with the legacy of their past. In particular the visit facilitated participants to look at dealing with the past from a grassroots perspective and explore the similarities and differences between lived experiences in Northern Ireland and South Africa. The dynamics of the South African conflict are very complex and therefore there cannot be a direct comparison with the Northern Ireland situation. Seventeen years since Apartheid government formally ended, it is fair to say that some progress has been made towards achieving reconciliation and healing however much work is still needed to reach a situation where there is mutual understanding and integration between the different racial groups within the country.
During the trip the RDC Good Relations Officers along with the other participants heard informative presentations in relation to the outworking of the Truth Commission in South Africa. One of the key outcomes of the Truth Commission was the notion of ‘narrative of reconciliation’ as promoted by Bishop Desmond Tutu. This demonstration of leadership had a very positive impact at a number of critical points during the process in that it successfully binded the nation and helped prevent the process from becoming derailed.
As a result of what was a truly valuable and enlightening experience there have been a number of other key learning points.
On a practical level the RDC Good Relations Officers have established links with a Community Healing Practice project which is being delivered by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. The hope is to exchange information in terms of training resources and approaches with a view to aiding future programme delivery at grass roots level.
For more information contact Yvonne Breen or John Kelly on 028 867 66980 or view the Journeys Out website.