School Climate & Safety

Foreign Exchange

October 10, 2001 1 min read

Following the attacks of Sept. 11, the conflict between extremist followers of Islam and the West’s Judeo-Christian mainstream has been put under a spotlight. But differences within Christianity have caused turmoil elsewhere over the centuries and continue to beset Northern Ireland.

In recent months, Protestants in the Arodyne section of Belfast began targeting Roman Catholic parents as they walked their daughters to the Holy Cross Girls Primary School. The 130-student publicly run Catholic school is located in a Protestant neighborhood and serves 4- to 11-year-olds.

Since the beginning of the school year, students and parents have walked to school through a throng of police officers dressed in riot gear. Protesters have been hurling rocks and bottles, along with verbal profanities.

Periods of silence have intermingled with days of louder protests, said the Rev. Gary Donegan, a priest at the school. “Our fear is that so much trauma has taken place already, how is this going to show in 10 years time?” he said last week.

Protestants have asked that the parents and students take a route that does not cut through their neighborhood. But that would require them to walk an extra mile and pass through a muddy soccer field, the priest said.

Catholics have taunted and attacked Protestants in the area for years, said the Rev. Norman Hamilton, a Presbyterian minister at a nearby church. He expects the demonstrations to continue until changes are made to improve the quality of life in the poor community.

—Michelle Galley mgalley@epe.org

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