The role of Catholic schools in promoting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland

The Second Vatican Council Decree on education, Gravissimum Educationis clearly embraces the belief that through education people, “should be open to dialogue with others and willingly devote themselves to the promotion of the Common Good”.

The Northern Ireland Bishops have constantly reiterated that reconciliation and the celebration of diversity is at the heart of all Christian and human education. Professor Sir George Bain’s report – fully accepted by Secretary of State, Peter Hain – states “We believe that all schools, and all the educational interests, need to, and wish to, play their part in the journey towards the goal of A Shared Future.” Schools for the Future. December 2006, Page.xxv.

Catholic schools are just as capable of promoting reconciliation as any other. Schools in the Catholic managed sector have been and continue to be fully committed to building a new society. They are ideally placed to assist society in the promotion of peace and reconciliation. Two core values of Catholic Church teaching, the theology of reconciliation and the promotion of the Common Good contribute to moving our society beyond division to a new coherence and openness. The Northern Bishops’ commitment to the Catholic education sector being proactive in building peace and reconciliation can be found in the document “Building Peace Shaping The Future.” (published 2001)

Catholic schools have demonstrated this proactively through their engagement in Shared Education where they work in collaboration with schools from other sectors to increase the understanding of, and respect for, the cultures of others.

Catholic schools foster healthy social awareness and outreach to the wider community. They participate in Personal Development and Learning for life and Work programmes of learning. Through the curriculum especially in English, History, Religious Education, and Drama pupils explore issues such as conflict, justice, tolerance and reconciliation. The Religious Education programmes contain specific work on the study of other religious and social traditions.

In this very secular age, Catholic schools across the globe are increasingly popular with all people who seek an education based on a clear philosophy and a commitment to offering a faith-based context for understanding the beauty and complexity of the world.