Jane Morrice: WhiteDoveWay is more than a path of peaceEuropost , Brussels
The WhiteDoveWay is a play on words. It is more than a path of peace. It is way of life, a way of living and learning guiding and leading Europe and the world to a better place. It is a way out of the madness of division that has engulfed so many of our societies in the past and is starting to threaten us now. As the greatest peace project in modern history, the EU must use that experience to become the conflict prevention champion of the future. By promoting the principles of peace, tolerance and mutual respect on which it was founded the EU can show the WhiteDoveWay at home and abroad.
There is growing concern that the EU is losing its way. It is certainly facing serious existentialist challenges, not least being Brexit, but all is not lost. What it needs is leadership, solidarity and clarity moving forward - but most of all it needs an ambitious vision which will breathe new life into its mission and engage its citizens along the way.
EESC President, Luca Jahier describes it as a rebirth or renaissance of the EU - that is what Europe needs but needs a way to get there. The WhiteDoveWay attempts to point the right direction. It sets out a road map for a journey which will actively engage European citizens, giving them a sense of belonging to the European Union project, while also creating an ambitious new vision for the EU based on its founding mission of peace.
The path of peace is a practical and physical embodiment of the EU ideal. It will start in Northern Ireland, the place from which the Sixth century Irish pilgrim Columbanus left on his journey around Europe. But it will go beyond to pass through places which have experienced war and conflict, so travellers hear stories of suffering from people whose memories have not faded and they will see how peace-building works in practice. It will finish in Cyprus, linking the two divided islands on either side of the EU.
By meeting strangers along the way, travellers, young and old, walking, running, cycling or biking, will learn from each-other how people of different colour, creed, age and sex share the same humanity.
For those unable to walk the Way, there will be a Virtual Reality trail giving a three dimensional experience of life in the trenches in Flanders fields, behind the peace walls in Belfast or areas devastated by conflict in the Balkans.
This virtual trail and the on-line version, could eventually become the high-tech history book of the next decade teaching children the reality of the EU peace-building project and replacing traditional history books in which the men who waged war are better known than the people who made peace.
It can surely be no coincidence that the name Columbanus is White Dove in English and that this was the man who, by bringing light and learning to Europe thousands of years ago, was described by Robert Schumann as the patron Saint of European unity.
Now, Northern Ireland, Columbanus’ point of departure in 597, is at the very centre of the Brexit storm with vital efforts being made to protect the peace process at all costs. It is right therefore for Northern Ireland once again to be the point of departure of the new European renaissance which will protect the peace process, promote peace-building worldwide and spread the simple, yet powerful European message - Where there’s a will there’s a WhiteDoveWay.
Jane Morrice is a rapporteur of the EESC opinion “The White Dove Way – Proposal for an EU-led Global Peace-building strategy”, adopted on 20 March.