White House reception postponed
Despite having his US White House reception postponed until March, South Armagh reconciliation worker Ian Bothwell has just had a fascinating trip to Washington.
As director of Crossfire Trust he was due to formally receive the 2002/2003 US President’s Prize in conjunction with Liam Maskey, brother of Sinn Fein Mayor, Alex.
But Liam was unable to fly at the last minute for medical reasons - so Ian went out to fulfil an unusual list of speaking engagements, in a superpower readying itself for war.
“The people themselves are not really up for a war, I would say it appears to be more of a political agenda,” said Mr Bothwell. “I don’t think people are convinced all non-violent options have been explored."
"But believe it or not, Ireland, Israel and American are all occupying similar priorities in the American news broadcasts – they all need some sort of breakthrough."
"I was asked to speak about reconciliation at a Messianic Congregation in Washington. These are Jews who have come to accept Christ as their Messiah while retaining their Jewish culture."
"They asked me to speak to them as they felt they had unforgiveness towards those that have hurt them down through history and regarding the Middle East situation today."
"I guess they wanted to learn about reconciliation and forgiveness from an Irish perspective without feeling ‘got at’."
"And then there was the Indian Christian community just outside Washington in Maryland. They asked me to speak to them on issues of ethnic tension and identity, about living as a nation within a nation."
"I also travelled to Florida to see some amazing youth projects and spoke to a congregation of several thousand people about my work in Northern Ireland."
"Liam and I hope to travel to the White House again on St Patrick’s Day. The US Consul in Belfast say that the President may be free personally to meet us then as it is traditionally a time for Northern Ireland to be in his diary.”
And what would he like to share with Mr Bush if he gets the opportunity? “I would like to remind him that many people are praying for him in his position of great responsibility but also that Jesus said ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’ I would also like to ask him to pursue all possible avenues before launching into a war.”