Leader in local Christian Charity calls for an active response to sectarianism

August 11, 2010

Published Ballymena Guardian, 11 August 2010

A former Ballymena youth worker has called on churches to respond to the Executive’s Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration in the wake of a recent sectarian incident. Jeremy Gardiner, who now works for Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), believes that Christian leaders need to be involved in transformative action so as to prevent repeats of the paint attack in Harryville.

Only three days after Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness published their proposals to deal with sectarianism and hate crime, vandals damaged Our Lady’s Church with paint in what the PSNI described as a sectarian attack. Under the new proposals, ministers will adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to attacks motivated by sectarian, religious, racist or hate prejudice. “The attack on Harryville church on Saturday past shows even though there seems to be progress at Stormont, division is still embedded in our communities,” explained Mr Gardiner, who is the Assembly and Development Officer for CARE in Northern Ireland.

As a youth pastor with High Kirk Presbyterian church, Mr Gardiner was involved in cleaning up Our Lady’s Church in 2005 after a similar attack. “It was an act of rolling up our sleeves, reaching out and addressing the divide. It led to conversation between the Catholic Church and local community leaders, and as a result the UDA mural in the area was removed. Whilst the recent attack in Harryville was dispiriting, and one wonders if anything has changed, churches in the area can once again take a lead.”

A public consultation process on the so-called shared future strategy has been launched and will run until the 29th October. Meetings on the proposals which can be attended by anyone will be held throughout September. Jeremy Gardiner, who in this year’s General Election helped organize a debate for the candidates in a local church, believes that church leaders and members need to seize this opportunity to respond. “As Christians, we can engage with the consultation process and take seriously our call to pursue justice. The church needs to think about its role in this process, and to speak with a prophetic voice.”

Building from his own experience of working with different communities, Mr Gardiner believes that churches have a physical response to play within contested communities. “We can’t simply say our piece and expect everyone to listen. We need to follow the biblical principle to love our neighbour, in how we respond to the attacks that happen in our neighbourhoods, and in how we interact with those who are different to us. The vision of the church is to speak good news to the circumstances it faces daily, and we ought to be doing that with our hands, as well as our mouths.”


Press Release for KIlcranny House

August 23, 2009

Summer Daze at Kilcranny House

Coleraine is set for a bonanza week of arts and culture [15th-22nd August] as Kilcranny House hosts its Summer Daze festival, offering entertainment, enlightenment and a chance to experiment with a new skill.

Boasting an international flavour, the week kicks off this Saturday [15th] with a Festival Fun Day at the Centre with Bollywood Dancers and South American mask makers adding a touch of glamour to the day. There will also be a chance to learn a new skill through participating in one of the glass painting or drumming workshops. Bouncy castles and face painting will keep the children entertained for the afternoon and for adults looking simply to unwind, there will be live music on offer, ensuring an activity packed afternoon for all.
On Monday and Tuesday mornings there will be the opportunity to learn mask making from the Latin experts in Ballysally and Kilowen areas. On Monday evening listen to Roberta Bacic present ‘Threads of Hope’, an inspirational Chilean documentary. Bacic was a powerful voice against the military regime of Chile in the 1970s, suffering the consequences of being fired from her university job and being arrested. After many years as a member of the peace group War Resistors’ International, Bacic now lives in Northern Ireland and has a powerful story to tell.
For those with more of a palette for local history, local author and storyteller Dr Bob Curran will provide a stimulating historical tour of Garvagh on Tuesday afternoon, complete with lunch. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, why not try a new skill, be it Bollywood Dancing, or Jewellery making?
The week’s activities, which are funded by Coleraine Borough Council and International Fund for Ireland, finish on Saturday 22nd with a Gallery Exhibition at Coleraine Town Hall.

Kilcranny House was established in 1985 as a residential, educational and resource centre. Set alongside the River Bann, the centre aims to promote reconciliation in the local community, not just between residents, but between locals and the land.

For more information on the Summer Daze festival, or to make a booking telephone Lisa on 077*******7

Fairtrade Fortnight at Coleraine University

March 12, 2008

Published: UFOURia Spring 2008

A new social action group set up at the Coleraine campus made their presence known on the Bridge during Fairtrade fortnight (25th February – 9th March). ‘Speak’, as they are known, spent the first week offering information on the Fairtrade logo to those who were interested, as well as encouraging students and staff alike to sign a petition urging the university to follow Queen’s and gain Fairtrade status. During the second week they had a variety of products on offer and gave some samples away as well as selling tea, coffee and chocolate, all bearing the Fairtrade mark. Fairtrade ensures a fair price for the producer as well as guaranteeing ethical purchasing i.e. there has been no slave or child labour used in generating the product you buy. The method of providing assistance to third world workers through ‘Trade not Aid’ is essential in the sustainable development of farms in Africa and South America.
In order for the university to be officially recognised as a Fairtrade University, five criteria must be met. These are:

1. The Student Union and the university authorities both create a Fairtrade policy incorporating these five goals.
2. Fairtrade foods are made available for sale in all campus shops. Fairtrade foods are used in all cafés/restaurants/bars on campus. Where this is not possible, there is a commitment to begin to use Fairtrade foods in these establishments as soon as it becomes possible to do so.
3. Fairtrade foods (for example, coffee and tea) are served at all meetings hosted by the university and the SU, and are served in all university and SU management offices.
4. There is a commitment to campaign for increased Fairtrade consumption on campus.
5. Set up a Fairtrade Steering Group

Surely it is our basic responsibility to encourage the sale of Fairtrade products in the university, knowing that by doing so on a campus consisting of thousands of students and staff we can make a significant impact for justice for the poor of this world.

More details can be found at http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get_involved_university.htm

‘Speak’ up for Social Justice

March 1, 2008

Published: UFOURIA, March 2008 issue

Many of us have some form of concern for global injustice such as poverty, slavery and trafficking. The truth of the matter is that we just don’t care enough to do something about it. Gone are the days when our young people were revolutionary and caused society to sit up and take notice of such international issues. Or are they? A group of passionate students at the University of Ulster in Coleraine have decided to set up a social action group called ‘Speak’. Born out of a Christian ethos and running alongside other Speak groups on the mainland, they aim to raise student awareness of global issues and encourage students in their consumer choices and those lifestyle habits which carry far-reaching consequences.

‘Speak’ intends on focussing on two impact groups which will in turn deal with one specific issue. One will address the issue of Fair Trade and the other Climate Change. The group concentrating on Fair Trade aims to encourage the UU catering services to use these products wherever possible and to assist the university in following Queens and becoming a ‘Fair Trade University.’ As part of “Fairtrade Fortnight” some students will be promoting and selling Fairtrade items such as tea, coffee and chocolate from a table in the main bridge area on campus. There will also be a petition for staff and students to sign urging the Students Union and the University authorities to incorporate the five goals needed to gain Fairtrade status. Rachel Logan, one of the organisers says “If we can get 500 signatures it will show that students really do care about their consumer choices and add a lot of weight to our argument”

Fairtrade Fortnight runs from 25th February to 9th March. If you would like to find out more about how to get your school, church or workplace involved then check out http://www.fairtrade.org.uk