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Churches in Springfield, Hollister and West Plains are hosting a special guest from across the pond: a reverend from Northern Irelandwhose mission is about community building and healing. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann shares his story.
As a retired Presbyterian minister, Reverend Wilfred Orr is part of the International Peacemaker program within the church. He served for 40 years in Northern Ireland as a minister, and today takes part in the ongoing peacemaking efforts within the divided country of Ireland.
The peacemaking program includes people from Iran, Syria and other areas of the world dealing with conflict. Orr is touring the US for three weeks. He says he's been warmly received, and appreciates the opportunity to share his experiences for the sake of bringing people together.
“I’m part of a team currently that would be 9 or 10 itinerants like me. And the Presbyterian Church in America have drawn them from various troubled spots. The idea, I think, is to express thanks to the States for the help we have received, and to update the States on what we have been doing,” Orr says.
Orr says one thing he enjoys about visiting the US is bringing the two countries closer together. It's "enriching," he says, to “expand one’s horizons beyond their local shores.” In the talks he'll give in the US, Orr will discuss the current peacemaking process of Northern Ireland. He says his country is beautiful and supports growing tourism, and is often very different from what people think.
“The impression that we’re all at each other’s throats and that you can’t live a peaceful life in Northern Ireland is quite untrue. We have specific problems to deal with, and we have people living in ghettoed areas, and that is a problem. Difficulties to deal with that’s perfectly true, but let’s not blow the problem out of all proportion,” says Orr.
This is the second year that Orr has traveled to the United States from Northern Ireland as part of the Presbyterian Church's International Peacemaker program.
“The American [Presbyterian] church has invited me to talk a little bit about my work in Northern Ireland, and in a way to bring them up to date with what we’ve been doing in the field of reconciliation. Partly a reporting business, and partly I get to gather of Presbyterians who essentially as Christians, although we live maybe 4,000 miles apart, are part of the same global church,” Orr says.
Reverend Orr will be speaking at several venues before he leaves for Chicago: they include the First Calvary Presbyterian Churches in Springfield and Hollister on Sunday. He's speaking at College of the Ozarks on Monday evening, and then traveling to West Plains on Tuesday to speak at the First Presbyterian Church and MSU-West Plains.
For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.