The annual Community Relations Week may have passed some readers of this blog by – especially if you don’t live in Northern Ireland – but this year it has been particularly enriching for me. I’ve had the chance to have some good conversations with people at two events I’ve attend – Rev Mercia Malcolm’s talk on “A Journey in Reconciliation: An Exploration of the Friendship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien,” at the Centre for Contemporary Christianity and the launch of Cathy Higgins’ book, Churches in Exile at Skainos. (More about these events will be posted on this blog in due course.)
While attending these events meant seeing many familiar faces, tomorrow there’s a chance to have a conversation with someone you would not normally meet at Belfast City Council’s Human Library.
I only learned about the Human Library yesterday when talking with Good Relations Officer Anne Deighan at Cathy’s book launch, but its workings are described this way on the Belfast City Council website:
The Human Library
The Human Library works like a normal library except that the books are people and reading is a conversation.
Readers can come and borrow a person for a 20 minute conversation. It’s a safe and fun way to bring people from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles together in conversation.
All of the ‘Living books’ live in Northern Ireland and are from a wide range of backgrounds with different life experiences. It is difficult to maintain stereotypes when you meet someone face-to-face. So, if you’re already aware that you have ideas about a certain group in the community, maybe borrowing that book will challenge your views?
Date and time: 24 May 11-2pm
Venue: Belfast City Hall – Banqueting Hall
How can I participate?
Select your choice of book(s) from the list of Living Books below.
Reserve your place by contacting the Good Relations Unit via email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 028 9032 0202 ext 6019.
Places are limited so please reserve as soon as possible.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
The conversations are one-to-one and there are still some slots remaining. In an email, Deighan provided me with this updated list, including times, so book now if you would like to take part:
‘From an Edinburgh Cloister to Belfast ‘ – 1.20
A nun’s journey from an enclosed convent to life in Belfast working with kids aged 16yrs in the care system and in an inner city parish. ‘In the 80s I would have thought that anyone choosing to move to and live in Belfast was mad! Little did I know that it would be me…..’
‘Give a Boy a Gun’ – 12.50
What turns an ordinary boy growing up in a loving family into a man of violence, and then what helps him turn his back on bloodshed? This book became immersed in the conflict at the age of seventeen. Too young to receive a life sentence, he served almost 13 years of an indeterminate sentence in Long Kesh and the H-blocks. During that time, he began the slow and painful journey away from violence to work locally, nationally and internationally with the survivors of conflict.
The Black African Myth – 12.10, 12.50
This is the story of the challenges of integration into Northern Ireland society. “I did not come here to take your job – I came here to make a life.” – Share the experiences of someone of African origin living and settled in Northern Ireland.
All the little things – 1.40, 2.00
Over the years this book has learnt that the best lives are built one choice and one change at a time. They are not built on some big triumph or accomplishment but rather on all the little things we choose to do every single day. What are some of these little things that you can do to change your own life?
Polish love story – 12.10, 12.30, 12.50, 1.20
This book is about a girl who abandoned her career and moved to an unknown country to follow her love. It is a story about struggling with emotions, beliefs, lifestyle and finding one’s own place in a new country. It tells of a family who worry if their daughter is still alive when the media show cars on fire in Belfast. The story of a girl who did not know that living in Ardoyne and going to a mechanic in East Belfast might be seen as something strange.
From Pulpit to Pavement – 12.30, 12.50, 2.00
One Presbyterian minister tells of his work with the church. At the start of his ministry he talked to the congregation from the pulpit but now spends much of his time on the streets of east Belfast working with Protestant young people involved in interface conflict. Find out more about the trials and joys this brings.
Beyond the Boyne – Much More Than a March – 12.50, 2.00
Since the famous battle at the river Boyne, the Orange tradition in Ireland has fondly remembered King William’s victory on many banners and in music and song. Unfortunately, many in society only ever see the public face of the Orange Order during the summer months. However, the organisation is about much more than a march; its a proud Protestant fraternity and raises thousands of pounds annually for a range of charities …choose this book to find out other aspects of the culture you maybe didn’t know about.
From Zimbabwe to Belfast –12.50, 1.40, 2.00
This book explains why she travelled from Zimbabwe to Belfast and what happened when she arrived in this strange city, the challenges for her as an asylum seeker and the circumstances which have now left her destitute. Find out how someone survives when they have no money and are reliant on the charity of others for everything.
Political Accidents – 1.40
Find out how this man got involved in politics in south Africa by accident and then did the same thing when he came to Northern Ireland. Learn about threats to him, his home and his business and how these have not changed his passion for politics.