Despite intense heat and the absence of air conditioning, students danced their way into this year's baccalaureate service at the First Baptist Meeting House. The Sunday afternoon event began with the rhythmic thunder of the Dougouto Nganya drumming group and continued with a traditional Vietnamese lion dance, Islamic and Hindu prayers, and a Christian blessing.
Though a well-known Irish Roman Catholic political figure, John Hume focused his address on a more secular and humanistic faith. One of the principal brokers of the first lasting peace accords in Ireland in three decades, Hume has been spreading the same message for as many years: respect is a start, but only a start.
"Conflicts everywhere are about the same thing: difference, differences of religion, nationality, race, and ethnicity," Hume told the seniors. His speech was simulcast to a huge crowd assembled on the Green. "But are there two people on the entire earth who are the same?"
Negotiating difference, Hume went on, is the key to creating a sustainable peace. "Respect is the first principle of peace, no matter where you go." The second principle, he continued, is the creation of institutions where proportionality and tolerance are primary goals. The third component of lasting peace, Hume said, is having these institutions "work together in the common interest."
"In Ireland, our quarrel has gone on for three centuries, and the last thirty years have been the worst," Hume concluded, wiping sweat from his forehead. "It's not just a religious quarrel, it's a quarrel of identity."