Belfast, Belovedness, and the Banksy Tunnel
Belfast, Belovedness, and the Banksy Tunnel
Last week, I embarked upon my first time traveling internationally to England and Northern Ireland. We spent two days in London, two days in Belfast, and three days in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. Osheta has been journeying alongside peacemakers from around the United States along with peacemakers in the United Kingdom as part of the Journey of Hope 2022. She connected with this cohort of peacemakers through The Global Immersion Project, led by Jer Swigart. Osheta played a pastoral role, facilitating and guiding participants in spiritual practices, while 40 peacemakers gathered at the storied Corrymeela Community in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. While she served, I had the privilege of tagging along and experiencing the beauty of the Emerald Isle.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

In Belfast, we briefly toured some of the sites where this region has suffered from sectarian violence and religious segregation. We got a crash-course in what’s known as “The Troubles”—the conflict that has persisted between Catholics and Protestants, Loyalists and Republicans. We visited neighborhoods that have been home to paramilitary groups which have waged an urban war on their perceived enemies and saw murals that remain to this day commemorating (even celebrating) their attacks. While the famed “Good Friday Agreement” has brought about a time of relative peace in Belfast, locals don’t believe The Troubles are completely over. Even now, a so-called “Peace Wall” stands 40+ feet tall separating these communities and gates that control the flow of traffic between them are closed at night. What does it mean to be a Peacemaker in a city like Belfast today?

The Corrymeela Community

For the lion share of our time in the UK, we stayed at the storied Corrymeela Community in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland along the coast outside Belfast. For decades, this place has been a center for learning, growing, and forming peacemakers. Host to global leaders like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, Corrymeela is a spiritual oasis amidst a conflict zone. At the center of the village is a sacred worship space called the Croí, which is the Irish word for “heart.” The building itself is shaped like the inner-ear calling upon visitors to listen to their own hearts and the heart of God.

Tagging the Leake Street Tunnel (AKA the Banksy Tunnel)

It’s been a “bucket list” dream of mine to tag the Leake Street Tunnel in London, since I first began to follow the work of the illusive and enigmatic street artist, Banksy. He made this tunnel famous, and today it’s a ‘legal wall.’ While we were in London, my dreams literally came true as I painted a series of six stencils of my “Jesus Piece” image. I was on cloud nine!

Reflection on Belovedness

As I reflect back on my time in the UK, I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore places I’ve wanted to visit for many years. But as Osheta shared with the US & UK cohorts, peacemakers must also attend to their own peace. As she reminded us all, owning our belovedness is one of the most important ways we sustain our energy and longevity in our peacemaking work. Before leaving for the UK, I was feeling myself becoming depleted. I’m thankful to report that this journey has replenished my reserves to re-enter the fight for justice.