‘Significant’, ‘subversive’ and ‘a little gem’ were among the words used to describe a new book on reconciliation by two clergymen – one a Church of Ireland Rector, the other a Roman Catholic priest – which has been launched in Derry-Londonderry.
'Forgiveness Remembers' was co-written by Fr Paul Farren and Archdeacon Robert Miller whose parishes adjoin one another on the edge of the Bogside. It was launched by the Republic’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and the author and peace-builder, Tony Macaulay, at an event in St Mary's College. The Britannia Concert Band, of which Archdeacon Miller is a member, helped provide entertainment at the event.
The book was born out of the friendship between its authors and explores the road which, they say, “has the potential to lead us out of the darkness of hate into the light of peace”. Its chapters draw from the personal experiences of the authors and their communities, and focus on hate, pity, compassion, forgiveness, grace, peace and hope.
Archdeacon Miller says encounter and relationship are at the book’s heart. “It isn’t long but it has a depth that we hope will refresh those who are weary of carrying the burden of ‘unforgiveness’. Forgiveness cannot be hurried, so be gentle with yourself on the journey.”
Fr Farren says: “In the reality that we live in today, the often painful journey of forgiveness is the only key to a future of freedom and peace.”
Minister Coveney revealed at the book launch that he had read the book on the road from Stormont, where a session of inter-party talks had earlier broken up acrimoniously and without agreement. “You mightn’t realise it,” he said, “but what you have achieved here [in Derry-Londonderry] in the last 20 years or so is an inspiration to so many other countries who are struggling to find a way of helping communities to live with each other.
“Of course, the divisions in NI run deep,” Mr Coveney said, “and the political parties are trying to create an environment that can create grey areas between those divisions, and then expand those grey areas so that they become encounters – positive ones – that are challenging, that are difficult, but that create outcomes for a new generation that can write a very different story for Northern Ireland.”
The Minister hoped the book would be a source of encouragement to people. “I think that [in terms of] the kind of aspiration and hope and determination that we need to have together for this city, this country, this island – both countries on this island – this book is a little gem in terms of helping people to think a little bit deeper about why they’re not able to come up to the challenges that they’re trying to face, and maybe help them to redouble their efforts and start again, to move through the journey that they need to do to find a much better place and to find their own peace of mind.”
Author and peace-builder Tony Macaulay told the audience of 150 people that 'Forgiveness Remembers' contained profound messages and offered important and inspiring words about the path to peace. Why, he wondered – in the midst of all the political talks, and the latest crises and deadlines here – was there so little talk of forgiveness? It was a concept that went to the very heart of the pain of a society emerging from conflict, he said. “Is it too hard, is it too religious, is it too ambitious, or too complex, or too personal to talk about forgiveness. Perhaps if forgiveness moved towards the centre stage in our peace process we might be able to take a leap forward to become a truly peaceful and integrated society.”
Mr Macaulay said the churchmen’s cross-denominational collaboration was, in itself, a model and an inspiration for reconciliation in this divided society.
The Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, told the audience that the story we told about the past influenced, to a huge extent, the condition and possibilities of the future. “This subversive book is radical and liberating because it enables us to tell a different story of the past, to say we’re not its prisoners, that we can be architects of our future.”
Bishop Ken Good said there were many treasures in the book but that its main treasures were its two authors. “The two of you, as leaders of the church, are modelling something that is worthwhile.” Bishop Good said 'Forgiveness Remembers' was an accessible, significant and important volume for Northern Ireland.
Forgiveness Remembers, ISBN: 978-1-909728-67-7, by Paul Farren and Robert Miller, is published by Instant Apostle and is available from bookshops and on-line retailers. 128pp, £6.99.