by Marbeth Lynch
Celebrating and promoting cultural diversity in Northern Ireland is as important to my family as survival, as it creates the future environment for my children.
I was raised during the 1970s in a small town which was segregated, not formally, just by an unwritten rule that I should not play with kids ‘at the other end of the town’. Fast forward 30 years and I am fortu- nate to have met and married a man from ‘the other side’ and we have two young sons.
I am grateful that the early social conditioning ex- perienced as a child did not prevail and prevent me from living the happy family life which I have today. A major factor in my shift in attitude was going to college and being educated alongside a variety of people from various religious and cultural back- grounds. I met my best friend in 1993 at University. We had lived in the same town and missed out on so many potential childhood adventures because of the political landscape at that time. Although this is regrettable, it’s important not to dwell on the past as the past can’t be changed; the focus is on today and creating a promising future for our children.
My 7 year old son attends Bridge Integrated Primary School. Their motto is ‘One in the Spirit’ which is a direct fit with our family’s rationale. I could not send him to a single identity school when we are a double identity family. He has the opportunity to learn about the world alongside different religious and cultural backgrounds. My son tells me about class mates from Italy, France, Poland and Spain. He has classmates
of all physical and mental abilities. This stands him in good stead to socialise with people from all walks of life as he gets older. The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education claims 93% of children are educated in single identity schools. That is a lot of children missing out on the opportunity to learn and grow alongside children from various backgrounds until they enter higher education or the workplace.
I have many concerns for my children, as do all par- ents, about their future and the world they will grow up in, however I can only do my best to teach them that everyone is ‘one in the spirit’ despite differences in appearance, in belief and in culture. This year our family is on a mission to learn about the different customs and holidays of various countries by cele- brating a different holiday every month – what’s not to love about a monthly party? At the moment the calendar is a work in progress as we are just setting out on this quest – We warmly welcome suggestions.