The Junction

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Contact: Maureen Hetherington
Tel: 028 7136 1942
Email: mhetherington@thejunction-ni.org
Website: www.thejunction-ni.org
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The Junction was established in March 2000 by a group of community relations practitioners, working closely with Derry City Council, to offer support to those wishing to undertake peace building work at the grassroots, statutory, institutional and educational levels.

The Junction consists of a library of peace building resources and training materials, and a large and small space for people to meet. Yet it is more than just a space – the Junction staff and committee work hard to keep the space ‘mutually respectful’ to all who enter. We value everyone who steps through our doors, whether they are embarking on a personal journey of self discovery, delivering or receiving training, or participating in the many programmes run by organisations who book our facilities.

The Junction is part of a large network of organisations and community groups throughout Northern Ireland and the border counties engaged in peace building initiatives. The Junction, for its part, delivers projects and programmes with a focus on social healing and social transformation.
So what is social healing and social transformation? How does it impact areas of high deprivation, tension and conflict? What of communities that have suffered most as a result of conflict? What about those who use violence to rebel against a sense of helplessness and hopelessness? Fear and mistrust of difference is reflected in our deeply divided society, and as citizens we can hold our hands up, some higher than others, and take responsibility for contributing to the fear and mistrust that helps fuel tension and violence.

In order to create a country at peace with itself, there needs to be
strong political leadership to make wise and selfless decisions that will improve the quality of the lives of all citizens, at the individual level and in relation to one another. Communities desperately need to feel that they are safe and connected to their neighbours if there is any hope for an inclusive and shared society. An innovative and imaginative economic sector would help forge long-term strategies for employment and economic growth, which in turn might give hope to those who strive for a better standard of life. However, even if there is a strong political leadership and a thriving economy, there also needs to be ethical and inclusive compassion and action to attend to those whose lives have been impacted, directly and indirectly, by conflict. This is where the Junction can play a useful role.

Peace building is sometimes narrowly interpreted as community relations approaches which set about challenging prejudice, sectarianism and discrimination. The Junction, however, takes the approach of fixing the self first in order to be able to truly open up to other possibilities. This approach emphasises the importance of exploring what people are struggling with or what remains unresolved in their lives in order to better understand how the conflict has impacted and shaped them.
Until people can come to terms with, and make sense of their past, it is highly improbable that they are ready to address attitudes and mindsets that shape their thinking about others from a different religious, cultural or political background.

The Junction endeavours to act as a moral compass to bear witness to those who have been damaged by the conflict in order to work to reduce intergenerational trauma and prevent a return to conflict and violence. Because of this, the Junction works with absolutely everyone and anyone who wishes to engage in exploring the barriers to peace and the potential of a shared future. The Centre is committed to sharing and learning from peace building at the local, national and international levels on a holistic and inclusive basis:

  • Providing safe spaces that allow people to explore personal experiences that continue to impact negatively in their lives, including hurt and trauma as a result of conflict.
  • Developing projects and programmes around sensitive topics that can help people to explore issues that contribute to deep division, fear and mistrust.
  • Acknowledging and working with the generational impact of the conflict.
  • Creating spaces for the sharing of information, resources and best practice.
  • Offering support by way of advice, sign-posting, collaboration and sharing.
  • Providing opportunities to work with a range of agencies: statutory, institutional educational, and community in order to explore good relations issues that may impede on the effective delivery of work and services.
  • Promoting the work of the Community Relations Council for Northern Ireland.
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The Junction oversees and manages ‘Towards Understanding and Healing’ housed at the Centre. The Junction also houses UNICEF and the Foyle Women’s Information Network. The Junction has a number of projects currently underway, working in collaboration with other individuals and organisations to respond on the ground to identified topics that people wish to explore. The Centre remains flexible and open to innovative ideas and challenges that can capture the imagination of those who do not normally engage in this area of work.

So what is the future for the Junction? Unchartered territories are hard to predict and the current political climate, together with the volatility of funding, makes any planned strategy difficult. However, the Junction staff and committee will continue to

  • work with integrity and continue to respond to issues that are barriers to peace building.
  • address issues around the past that continue to have an impact on the present and future.
  • provide a mutually respectful and safe space for ongoing deep dialogue to bring about attitudinal change.
  • model the Centre as a collaborative agent and inclusive place for all.