The soft-spoken Methodist minister from Northern Ireland is yesterday's news — which, ironically, makes him relevant and newsworthy today.
Maybe you haven't heard of the Rev. Harold Good, who visited Omaha last week. He helped broker peace in his country when it seemed impossible — which often appears to be the case today in the Middle East and elsewhere.
"If we can make peace, anybody can make peace," Good said. "You've got to bring everybody to the table. You have to talk to your enemy."
Good's little country in the United Kingdom was long the scene of strife, hatred and violence. Protestants against Catholics, loyalists against nationalists. Anger dating back 300 years.
In the decades after 1969, the country of 1.6 million — a bit smaller than the 1.8 million in Nebraska today — saw 3,700 deaths from sectarian violence. The problems seemed unsolvable, the differences intractable, peace unattainable. But peace happened.
And now we rarely hear of Northern Ireland unless it's about three of the world's greatest golfers — Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
The Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton University brought the Rev. Good and wife Clodagh to Omaha. He spoke to 120 on campus Wednesday night and at a Thursday breakfast for 23.
As a young minister in the 1960s, Good spent four years in the U.S., part of it as pastor of a black church after the assassination of Martin Luther King. He learned much from his congregation, he said, and soon saw similarities between racism and sectarianism.
He returned to Northern Ireland just in time for what's called "The Troubles," and saw the effects of bloody violence.
In the 1990s, he said, President Bill Clinton "gave us the gift" of former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell as mediator. Eventually, a key point became decommissioning, or disarmament. How could everyone trust it would happen?
The solution was to appoint a Protestant minister and a Catholic priest to oversee it — the Rev. Good and Father Alec Reid. Another sticking point, finally agreed to, was the release of prisoners on both sides.
The multi-step peace agreement was announced in Belfast on Good Friday, 1998. Pastor Good later was moved when witnessing the two sides in a joint session of government.
Though Good said dissidents remain and the economic downturn had made life difficult, he adds that the peace has held. Now retired, the former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland can even make light.
When his daughter told her 10-year-old that Grandpa wanted to leave the gift of peace, Good said, the boy replied: "I hope he will leave us some money, too!"
Money can't buy happiness. But peace? Leaving peace to future generations would be the best news of all.
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