The Fellowship of Messines Association was formed in May 2002, by a diverse range of individuals from Loyalist, Republican and Trade Union backgrounds united in their realisation of the necessity to confront sectarianism in our society as a necessary means to realistic peace building.
The Association has networks of co-operation and support across the region and is dedicated to creating opportunities for participants from across all divides to engage in joint study and training programmes and dialogues around the questions of “History, Identity and Politics. The Decade of Centenaries has been a primary focus of the work as the Messines Fellowship.
A key driver for their work on the Decade of Centenaries has been to address the lack of access to a shared and common history, particularly one that enables participants to comprehend the issues of conflict and poverty, of culture, identity and heritage. Crucially, it seeks to use these engagements and discussion on Centenaries events to find common ground and tangible opportunities for individuals of all ages and from diverse cultures and heritages to engage and work together as active citizens.
The Centenaries events have utilised a shared learning collaboration between community activists and academics, who are opinion formers and influencers, to produce a learning programme and research papers to enable individuals to be self-critical and analytical about their own, and others history, culture and identity.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
The difference it has made is to bring diverse communities of interest together, particularly often those living in communities most affected by violence and conflict, to engage in discussion that ensures that the decade of centenaries is used not just as a reference of the past but also to consider how it might or might not predict the future.
There is still a need for this work as the Decade of Centenaries continues and to include other significant “historical” events, that have strongly influenced political identity and action for example the events of 1921 and 1922 in Ireland and their impact. There is a need for historical contemporary events such as the events in 1969, the Loyalist Strike and the Sunningdale Agreement to be addressed.
More recently a clear need has been identified among those community leaders and peace influencers to widen the accessibility of the programmes to specifically target young people and those from minority communities of interest who, for diverse reasons, are disengaged or excluded from a sense of their identity as valued citizens.
Finding resources and building sustainability to ensure that this work continues is an ongoing challenge.
Harry Donaghy, email@example.com