Another week is in the books and sadly my study abroad journey is halfway complete. This week consisted of recovering from a trip to Dublin, lectures, a 4th of July barbecue, and a few fun field trips!
Most of the locals I have met in Belfast, Northern Ireland have been extremely nice. On more than one occasion a person has come up to me and engaged in a conversation about where I’m from, Belfast, and various other topics. For example, as I was browsing a bookstore in the Student’s Union (similar to the MSC) in between lectures, the clerk asked me if I wanted a free notebook. As I responded in my American accent it led to questions of why I was in Belfast, my plans for the future, and life in general. Before I knew it the break was over and I almost missed the start of the next lecture! Since that is the type of interaction I have frequently encountered in Belfast, it is hard for me to believe that the same people who are nice to your face could easily throw stones over a wall into your community. Let me explain.
In Belfast there are tall walls and fences around various communities separating the Protestant and Catholic residents. These walls are typically in residential communities and some have actual gates that close at night separating the two populations. These walls were put up during and after the conflict of Northern Ireland (1968-1998) and have been sites of frequent violence and rioting between the communities. Although we did learn about these walls often in lecture, it was a totally different experience to see them in person. Seeing these walls further ingrained in me that the separation of populations in Northern Ireland is still present and that while the political peace process has been achieved, the social peace process has been neglected. The UN has a list of sustainable development goals that they want to achieve for all countries. One such goal is #16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. This goal in part is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies. I believe that in Belfast this goal still needs to be completed. Although the violence has largely been put to an end, the social peace process was never completed, and individuals have not yet learned to trust each other and live in the same community. Until this occurs, peace is not fully achieved.
Thanks for reading!