Bearer of Hope in Ireland

Jean Vanier visited Ireland North and South, many times during our thirty year conflict in the North and its precarious aftermath.  He was and continues to be a bearer of hope and encouragement in areas and situations of broken relationship and shattered trust.

By Ruth Patterson

Ruth Patterson is a Presbyterian minister, the first woman to be ordained as a minster in Ireland.  Since 1988 Ruth has been Director of Restoration Ministries, a non denominational, Christian organisation committed to peace and reconciliation based in Northern Ireland.



Jean Vanier visited Ireland North and South, many times during our thirty year conflict in the North and its precarious aftermath. He was and continues to be a bearer of hope and encouragement in areas and situations of broken relationship and shattered trust. In the midst of conflict through his presence and his words, he revealed to us that we were beautiful at a time when we found that hard to believe. In other words, he loved us.

The knowledge and acceptance of being loved is a major force in the nurturing of peace, as is the process and practice of forgiveness. Jean often says, “Community is founded on forgiveness and builds itself up through love.”

Faith & Friendship

In 1995, after a major conference in Northern Ireland which took place during the first ceasefire here, and at which Jean was the main speaker, he suggested to us that we set up a little movement to encourage people to meet together across the religious divide and to share their faith in an atmosphere of friendship. This we did in 1997 and Faith & Friendship has been in existence ever since, currently numbering seven groups in different venues across the country. At monthly gatherings people listen to one another’s stories, build relationships, share on prepared scripture guidelines, discuss possible joint activities and pray together.

It is Jean's conviction that the work of peace starts in little, almost hidden ways in units as small as the family. Faith & Friendship is such a little, hidden movement but, along with other ventures, is making a difference, being a bridge over some of the troubled waters of tension and mistrust that are obstacles to peace.

An awareness

Part of the ethos of L’Arche is that the poor, the little and the broken of the world are God’s gift to us in that they reveal to us the truth about ourselves, namely that we are all poor and little and broken, but we are also all the beloved of Jesus. It has seemed to me that over years Ireland has been poor and little and broken and has a disability in that we never seem to learn from our history.

As we move forward in our peace process and, however stumblingly, take on board our belovedness, then I believe that we still have an opportunity to share with the world this truth – that the whole world is poor and little and broken, but also beloved. This awareness is where peace begins. Such awareness is Jean’s gift to the world as peacemaker.


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