Beyond the Troubles, Belfast 2012

Beyond the Troubles

February 16th can’t come quickly enough for 14 Saint Mary’s students. On that day, they’ll be bound for Belfast to participate in the 7th annual Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Project, an initiative designed to promote conflict resolution practices in schools in Canada and Northern Ireland.

International Development Studies student Emily Anderson is especially excited about this year’s peace education initiative and looks forward to working with elementary school children from Catholic and Protestant schools. Emily has been involved with the project for three years, first as a workshop facilitator and then as the Student Coordinator for the program. She credits the Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Project with inspiring her graduate thesis on peace education in post-conflict societies.

Conceived and organized by Saint Mary’s University’s Conflict Resolution Advisor, Bridget E. Brownlow, the Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Project is rooted in Saint Mary’s belief in the importance and relevance of engaged and experiential learning. In preparation for their 10 days in Belfast, students receive training in conflict resolution and have the opportunity to facilitate conflict resolution workshops with children and youth in local schools.

“I’m very encouraged by the commitment of our students to peace education, locally and internationally. I am also encouraged by the commitment and support of Saint Mary’s University as an active and dedicated member of Peaceful Schools International,” says Brownlow.

This year’s trip to Belfast will be similar in many ways to past years, but there are some unique differences. For one thing, there is an increase in the number of schools involved. As well, this year the Saint Mary’s contingent will be joined by a small group of IDS students from Dalhousie University under the leadership of Chris Walker, a Saint Mary’s IDS graduate and former project participant.

Another first is that this year’s trip will be documented by film maker Jeff Cusack. Inspired by the grim scenes he witnessed as a participant in the 2010 project in Northern Ireland, Cusack is returning to Belfast to capture this year’s trip in a documentary entitled “Belfast: Students in Conflict”.  The former editor of the SMU Journal, Cusack plans to filter the continuing struggles of Northern Ireland through the gut-level reactions of this year’s participants. According to Cusack, the lessons of Northern Ireland need to be understood now more than ever.

The Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Project is made possible by a number of supporters including Saint Mary’s University, Peaceful Schools International, The Charitable Irish Society of Halifax, “An Cumann” (the Irish Association of Nova Scotia), The Estate of Patrick Power, Oxford School, Cornwallis Junior High, St. Mary’s Elementary and Inglis Street Elementary.