For five nights we’ve listened to sirens, heard helicopters, picked through discarded weapons and missiles on the way to work, today I watched a contractor painstakingly clean paint off the Yardmen sculpture (above), installed last summer and seemingly hinting at such a bright and hopeful future for East Belfast. Yesterday’s essay very obviously struck a chord with many trying to make sense and understand the trouble and violence in East Belfast, many commented, shared and followed up with me. My storytelling obviously awoke others stories and/or the stories that they are trying to tell.
I’ve asked a few people who are actually still working and living on the ground in inner East Belfast to write something for the blog this week, they all think differently, have different views that are not my own, but in the interest of diversity, community and thoughtfulness I am gathering them here.
Today I will introduce you to Tanita, a young Northern Irish woman, who works with children and young people on the Lower Newtownards Road, lives in an apartment right above the riots and is motivated by a strong Christian faith that keeps her there, showing up for work, relationships and community everyday, despite the violence – and this is what she wants to say, there are her own words & views:
“As a child I loved water slides, water fights and getting wet. Now as I sit looking out my window on a rainy winter’s night I spot the biggest water pistol I’ve seen. It’s putting out a fire. Not an accidental fire but am industrial sized bin set on fire and blocking the road. The water continues. This time as tears: rolling down my cheeks. I am heartbroken for the situation we are in.
The phrase on the UVF emblem reads ‘For God and Ulster’. Where is God within this chaos? The Christmas story tells us ‘the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14) ‘Be sure of this: I am with you always’ (Matthew 28:20) So where is God in the chaos? He is right in the middle of it. He is in the tears cried, the footsteps of people as they peacefully protest, and he is knocking on the door to our hearts. The phrase on the UDA emblem reads ‘Quis Separabit’ which is Latin for “Who will separate [us]?” It derives from the Romans 8:35 in the Vulgate, a Latin translation of the Bible; ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?’
In the name of God we are holding protests, burning cars, making people hostage in their own homes and destroying the area we walk around every single day. I’m not so sure God would be happy with such action however I take confidence in the reminder from the UVF and the UDA in the form of their emblems that nothing can separate us from God’s love and that God is here with us.
Surrender: give in to an opponent; hand over.
This can seem a negative word, forfeiting, losing, giving up, admitting defeat, and feeling weak and helpless. It can also mean to wave the white flag. In the light of recent events the loyalist phrase ‘no surrender’ means waving the Union Flag all year round from City Hall. I view the word surrender in another way; getting rid of our selves, and becoming less selfish as we look to what it is God would have us do. It does not matter whether I am a Protestant or a Catholic, because first and foremost I am a Christian, a follower of Christ. I don’t think the union flag should have been taken down from city hall in the way it did come down, however, I don’t believe in a lot of things more, like the daily injustices of the world; sexual exploitation, child slavery, domestic violence, disease, famine and more. I want to speak out for the voiceless, the marginalised and the hurting instead of creating more problems. I can only do this if I have faith and hope in someone greater than myself. Jesus said, ‘have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world.’
I am expectant for God to be on the move in East Belfast.”