Two schools in Ballycastle shining beacon of peaceful co-existence
On Monday the 18th June two schools in a previously divided area of Northern Ireland came together for a dialogue session on co-existence as part of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s education project, Face to Faith. The two schools are a shining beacon of co-existence having worked together on educational and social endeavours, against a backdrop of conflict in the Ballycastle area, since the 1960s.
Four students from each school, Cross and Passion, a maintained school and Ballycastle High, a controlled school, discussed their experience of working together, the challenges of such collaboration and creative approaches to help overcome these challenges. This workshop is the first in a series of sessions on conflict resolution, which will be filmed and made available as free educational resources to schools interested in fostering deeper levels of co-existence between their students.
In the coming months similar workshops between students in the Middle East, Kosovo and Bosnia are planned. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation hopes that these resources will help students to develop key skills of conflict negotiation and resolution which are vital for co-existence and peace building.
Significantly, through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Face to Faith global schools programme, the Catholic and Protestant schools are now teaching religious education collaboratively with students aged 13- 14 years old (years 8-10) taking part.
Mrs B.Ward, Principal at Cross and Passion High School said, "Our partnership with the staff and pupils of Ballycastle High School makes sense on so many levels. I have been privileged to witness deep seeded change here in Ballycastle. Ten Years ago staff from our schools had to have a ‘presence’ outside school gates to ensure that there were no sectarian incidents albeit by a minority of young people. As a result of our work, in combination with the changing political scene, the young people share their schools, their teachers and their special talents with great ease and a real sense of generosity. There is a tremendous sense of pride amongst pupils and staff of what we do and how we do it.”
Mr Williamson, Principal of Ballycastle High School said, "The Face to Faith project has been an invaluable support to the long established collaborative relationship which exists between Cross and Passion College and Ballycastle High School. The project has afforded pupils the opportunity to enhance a culture of mutual respect within a local and international level. Pupils have enjoyed a positive learning experience and have developed a wide range of skills using state of the art technology.” The Principal also commended everyone involved in the project for their hard work and vision.
“Working together allows us to respect our differences, whilst embracing our similarities in order to break down barriers which will help achieve peace in our community,” said Conleth, 14 year old from Cross and Passion College. Sharon, 13 year old from Ballycastle High School added, “I learned that even though we are different we can all work together and enjoy the experience. We are a good example for other schools in Northern Ireland and in other countries around the world.”
Mrs Deborah Wood, Head of Religious Education at Ballycastle High School and Mrs. Elaine McCallum, Teacher of Religious Education at Cross and Passion High School in a joint statement said: “As teachers of Religious Education we feel that working collaboratively gives pupils the opportunity to develop academically, morally and spiritually. Pupils can explore the beliefs of others while deepening their own faith and understanding. The learning environment is enriched by having pupils from different traditions and with different experiences. This allows Religious Education to be relevant, engaging and alive. Face to Faith allows pupils the opportunity to develop solid friendships with pupils of different faiths and backgrounds.”
For more information you can read Tony Blair's article Faith schools can help bridge gaps in divided communities, which appeared in the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph.