By: Bri Griffith, sophomore Creative Writing major at Carlow University
On Wednesday, February 17, 2016, Carlow University hosted their second Faith Forum entitled: Father Make Us One, presented by Noel Bradley-Johnston, an international student from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Put together by Bradley-Johnston and Siobhan DeWitt, Director of Campus Ministry, the forum focused on unity, the ability to make connections between Northern Ireland and the United States, and overcoming religious conflict in Northern Ireland. Bradley-Johnston was excited to have the opportunity to shed a light on the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland. “This is my country,” said Bradley-Johnston, and he wants Carlow University students to know more about it.
In relation to the impact of separation and how it promotes fear, Bradley-Johnston said, “Humans are constantly focused on ‘the other,’ or humans who are weird, not like them.” Bradley-Johnston highlighted the dangers in only focusing on differences. The more people focus on what makes them different, the less room they have for letting in love and acceptance.
Bradley-Johnston also focused on the “power of the symbol.” Although there’s a large geographical difference between Northern Ireland and the United States of America, Bradley-Johnston was able to make a strong connection between both using flags. Northern Ireland has it’s own flag, as opposed to the United Kingdom, also with it’s own flag. Bradley-Johnston spoke about the Confederate Flag. Although each of these flags is just “a collection of images, shapes, and colors,” people view them all differently depending on their beliefs—a way to create unnecessary tension between people. Some look at the Confederate Flag and see the South, or “country,” while others see it as a symbol of hate, and racism. The same goes for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom: sometimes, flags do a good job of separating people even more.
Bradley-Johnston and DeWitt both were featured on an early morning KDKA news segment where they talked about Father Make Us One, the Faith Forum Series at Carlow University, and how Carlow is actively tackling religious conflict between different people.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here at Carlow,” Bradley-Johnston said. “I’ve learned a lot, made a lot of really great friends, and received a lot of support from different faculty members. Referring to his job at Frank’s Cafe in the University Commons, Bradley-Johnston said, “I’m really happy to serve coffee to people all year.” If anybody wants one of his “famous quality drinks,” he suggests you get one before he heads back to Northern Ireland after the end of this semester. Also, for anybody thinking about studying abroad, Bradley-Johnston strongly recommends it. Ultimately, “it’s a life changing experience.”
If Northern Ireland can overcome religious conflict and thrive, there’s hope for other parts of the world as well, as conflict arises and attempts to separate people everyday, all around the world. Father Make Us One encouraged this truth.