Jim lived through the Troubles. He takes us on a very personal tour of this fraught history.
"When I used to get up out of bed in the mornings, my first thought was: how do we avoid being murdered, by the murder gangs? Also, how do we avoid the British army? And also, how do we attack the British Army? The change being today, when my kids get out of bed in the morning, they say, well ok, we have to go to work to get our mortgage paid. You see the change?"
It’s been 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement ended the 30-year period of conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.
Jim was 8 years old at the start of the conflict, so 1998 was the first time in his life he really remembers seeing peace. These days, he takes cab tours around Belfast – which is how Simon met him, in the course of filming a segment on the conflict for our documentary, For the Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined.
The Troubles is often cited as evidence that Christianity inevitably causes division and bloodshed. And it’s true that it was in some sense a clash between Catholics and Protestants. But it’s also a lot more complicated than that.
"Remember, in 1979 the Pope got down on his knees here and he said please, please, stop the violence. It continued on. Also remember, the Queen of England on many, many occasions, she appealed to the Protestant paramilitaries, the loyalist paramilitaries, to stop murdering people. Again, they didn’t listen. So religion was never taken on board by these paramilitary leaders."
Jim tells Simon about life during the Troubles: about the first Protestant he ever met; a game called "spot the bomb" that he and his mates used to play; and the story of the time he was shot - twice - by a British soldier. Join us on a very personal tour of this fraught history.
For The Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined is in cinemas from May 9. Buy tickets, or host your own screening: www.betterandworse.film
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