Monday, 10 November 2008

Perhaps best not to compare

Over the last few months I have visited two places which have been torn apart by ethnic tensions and fault lines between religions.

In one, now peace has returned, the two communities have started to work together to repair the damage of war and turmoil. They have used the cooperation to build up their tourism industry and return their community to peaceful cohabitation.

In the other the communities are still separated by walls and peace lines, the old animosities exist. Whilst the politicians work together the communities are still not together and integrated.

One is a former war zone, the other is part of my own country.

Bosnia was torn to pieces with ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims fighting each other, committing atrocities that brought back memories of the worst of World War II. In Mostar the Croats blew up the bridge that linked the Croat and Muslim community in an attempt at ethnic cleansing.
Today, the bridge is restored and the communities are now only rivals when it comes to building the largest religious building.

In Northern Ireland, the peace lines still exist, the police stations are still heavily fortified and the suburbs of Belfast and the towns along the coast are still referred to as Nationalist or Loyalist.

The most shocking sight is that of the gate in the peace wall half way along Townsend Street, closed each evening to separate the Communities of the Falls Road (Nationalist) and Shankill Road (Unionist).

Given all the talk of peace and reconciliation within Northern Ireland it is slightly scary, and sad, to see that the two communities are still so separated.

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