Stones or phones?
July 25 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Stones or phones? | Friday, July 25, 2003

Friday, July 25, 2003

Stones or phones?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Being heard is a wonderful thing.

Several news networks recently reported on a project in strife-torn Northern Ireland that utilizes a network of mobile phones to help people be heard and thus to keep the peace.

Northern Ireland has suffered hundreds of years of violence involving clashes between political/religious groups divided along Protestant and Catholic lines. A "Good Friday accord" signed five years ago was supposed to bring peace, but the country remains divided (in places, by a wall more than 30 feet high), and riots are still common, often sparked by rocks thrown over the wall.

Community leaders on both sides have been encouraged to pick up a phone instead of a stone.

In the western part of Belfast, where summertime marches celebrating 17th century Protestant victories commonly spark riots, the Springfield Community Development Project distributed mobile phones to workers on both sides of the towering wall, along with the phone numbers of counterparts on opposing sides.

Since riots are often sparked by rumors of what is happening (or getting ready to happen) on the other side of the wall, phone holders are encouraged to call informed contacts across the wall when they hear rumors of threatened violence. Where the rumors prove untrue, phone holders can spread the word and calm the passions of those who were getting worked up for a response.

And the system is working - not perfectly - but often enough to have cut the number of riots by more than 50 percent.

Baptists, of course, also know something about division. While we are more prone to throw verbal barrages than literal bombs, the walls between us are very real, the pain of conflict is very present, and the rumors of uncertainty run rampant.

Imagine the difference it could make if more of us were willing to talk to each other about a common future, rather than plotting and planning on the basis of rumor.

North Carolina Baptists tried that for several years. Talking to each other instead of about each other had a significant impact on the way many Baptists saw and understood each other.

We haven't talked as much lately, and that's made a difference, too.

Who's willing to pick up the phone?

Can you hear me now?

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7/25/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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