Day of Reflection events were hosted in Belfast, Northern Ireland today, June 21, to acknowledge all those affected by The Troubles.
Belfast City Hall, which will be illuminated yellow tonight as part of the observance, hosted Day of Reflection events as “an opportunity to acknowledge the deep hurt and pain caused by the conflict in and about Northern Ireland.”
The City Hall events included a quiet space for reflection, poetry and prose readings, as well as a 'thought tree' where people could share their hopes for the future by adding a leaf with a personal message.
A short film from the cross-community group Healing Through Remembering, which launched the Day of Reflection initiative in 2007, was also screened at City Hall throughout the day.
Healing Through Remembering says that the Day of Reflection is an inclusive experience that emphasizes a commitment to a peaceful new society.
Ahead of today's events, party group leaders on Belfast City Council said: “As a Council, we recognise that many people here are still living with the legacy of the past, and there has been deep hurt and pain caused to many as a result of the conflict here.
"We acknowledge that many people throughout the city suffered deeply as a result of the conflict.
“As civic ceaders, we hope that by hosting this annual event and providing a quiet, safe space, it will give people an opportunity to reflect and remember in a way which is personal to them.”
Thanks to everyone who came to our Day of Reflection event at City Hall today.
Visitors took time to share their memories, thoughts & hopes on a special 'tree' as they reflected on the impact of the conflict in NI.June 21, 2022
Elsewhere, St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast hosted the Courage to Lament service, which was sponsored by St Anne's Cathedral and the Corrymeela Community in association with Healing Through Remembering and the Wave Trauma Centre.
Emma Jane McClay and Tony Johnston both lost their Dads in the ‘Troubles’. Today they stood shoulder to shoulder to remember all those killed or injured at a special Day of Reflection service at St Anne's Cathedral. pic.twitter.com/qPOTwoAVMt— WAVE Trauma Centre (@WAVETrauma) June 21, 2022
The service, which was live-streamed, was led by church leaders Archbishop Eamon Martin and Presbyterian Moderator Dr. David Bruce and featured prayer, reflection, music, and symbolic action, as well as remarks from two women whose fathers were killed during the Troubles.
Dr. Bruce told BBC afterward that the occasion gives people in Northern Ireland, who have a "deep-seated community trauma," a safe space that contributes to healing.
A day of reflection in Belfast ... pic.twitter.com/Gr0usKjxa8— Mark Simpson (@BBCMarkSimpson) June 21, 2022
In Ireland, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney marked the day, saying: "The profound loss felt by the families who lost loved ones, and by their communities, is immense.
"These deaths not only changed the course of history on this island, they also left a legacy of loss and pain for so many to bear."
Coveney noted that this year was "especially poignant" as it's been 50 years since the deadliest year of the Troubles, 1972, which saw 479 lives taken.
He said: "It is important that we reflect on that immense loss. To do so requires of us to acknowledge and make space for multiple stories, and the different perspectives of all those who lived through those years. There cannot be one history of the Troubles, but our grief is a part of our common humanity.
"It is never easy to speak about such dark parts of our shared past. But the alternative, to forget, is not an option, and remembering challenges us to constantly strive for a better future. Our approach to the legacy of the past must be guided by the rule of law and empathy and compassion for each other's pain. True reconciliation and remembering demands it.
"It is the decent thing to do. It is the right thing to do."
Coveney said he stands in solidarity with all the families from all the communities who suffered over the course of the Troubles.
"Today, we remember the victims, who died, respect the survivors still with us and reaffirm our aspiration for mutual understanding, justice, and peace on this island."