24 April 2008

Ice-cream melts divisions

Good Friday this year was the tenth anniversary of what's known by some as 'The Belfast Agreement' and by others as 'The Good Friday Agreement' which has led to peace in Northern Ireland. You could also say that it has led to peace in the United Kingdom, of which Northern Ireland is part.

But there are many very human factors that led to the present situation. Five or six years ago a friend of mine from the Convent of Mercy in Downpatrick, County Down, Sister Perpetua, attended a funeral in what is said to be the most Protestant town in Northern Ireland, Donaghadee. The Catholic church is in a backstreet and the funeral was that of an old Italian who had owned an ice-cream parlour in the town. I'll call him 'Gino' since I don't remember his name.
Sister Perpetua was afraid that there would be very few at the funeral. However, the church was packed. The man beside her told her that he was a Protestant. 'When I was a child', he said, 'our family were poor. Whenever my father brought us to Gino's, even if he couldn't afford to buy some for each of us, none of us ever left without ice-cream. That's why I'm here, Sister'.

Gino had migrated to Northern Ireland to sell ice-cream. I wonder if he ever knew that he was one of those of whom Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers'?

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