The Ulster Project is an international volunteer program to help promote peace and reconciliation among the people of the six counties of Ulster, known as Northern Ireland. The program exposes Northern Irish teens to a life style that accepts cultural and religious differences and thereby helps end the polarization that feeds political conflict and violence.
A group of Northern Irish teens—half Roman Catholic and half Protestant—spends a month with American teens and their families in the summer. During the visit, the American and Northern Irish youth get together frequently with people of different faiths, mixing freely as we are accustomed to doing in our country. The time together allows the Northern Irish youth the opportunity to form friendships with the Americans and with each other—friendships that could not be accomplished easily in their hometowns.
The focus during the month is on building relationships and developing understanding, among both the Northern Irish teens and counselors and their American hosts. All other things are secondary. Thus, many other desirable things such as travel or learning about a variety of American institutions and practices take second place. That does not mean such things are forbidden or even necessarily discouraged, just that they are not the main purpose of the Ulster Project.
To promote tolerance, peace, and team building, we plan a program that includes service to the community, shared worship services, recreation, and introspective discussion sessions, called “Time of Discovery.” Discovery helps the teens focus on why they are part of the Ulster Project Program, raises their awareness of the issues that threaten peace in all countries, and encourages them to consider what everyone, including Americans, can do to promote peace wherever they live.
Importance of Reconciliation
Mediation and resolution is at the very heart of the Ulster Project.
The success of the Ulster Project is not measured by the absence of personal differences or by the absence of conflict but by the resolution of the differences and conflicts that invariably arise. Our aim is to promote a healthy interchange between all participants—teens, counselors, parents, volunteers, board members, and international organizers—to listen to each other with respect, to learn from each other in humility, and to work together in trust. If this year’s participants can come away with the beginnings of a means of coping with personal differences and conflict, we will have done much.
A host of people—young, old, and in between—support us and the other participants of the Ulster Project with their gifts, talents, and prayers. May our Lord and all the company of heaven bless each one of us in our efforts!