Peace begets peace

April 27, 2009
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RE "FOREIGN visitors seek lessons from Boston's divided past," (Metro, April 17) about Padraig O'Malley's Forum for Cities in Transition: Your story about O'Malley's bringing delegates from five divided communities reminds me of my first extended research visit to Belfast in January 1975. While I was receiving calls from worried family members about my safety in the midst of Northern Ireland's Troubles, my Belfast friends were transfixed by the television scenes of Boston's eruption over the busing crisis. They were worried about the safety of my family in such a violent place!

Returning this month from two weeks in Belfast, I was pleased to realize that the peace process has worked in both places. University students in Belfast can hardly imagine how all-consuming and unsettling the Troubles had been to their parents. Taxi drivers explained that the outpouring of public support for peace and politicians after the recent killings of two soldiers meant that reversion to violence is unthinkable. Similarly, my students at Boston College, admiring Governor Patrick and President Obama, can scarcely comprehend the intensity of hate and violence that wracked this community only 30 years ago.

Just as violence can beget more violence, so peace can foster more peace.

Ruth-Ann M. Harris
Jamaica Plain
The writer is an adjunct professor of history and Irish studies at Boston College.

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