Appropriately, the seed of Afri’s involvement with Féile Bríde was an act of generosity by five young Derry boys, who learned how to make St. Brigid Crosses, sold them and gave the money to Afri for our work in tackling hunger, poverty, war and militarisation. Inspired by this action, the St. Brigid Peace Cross School’s Campaign was launched in Derry by Sean MacBride in 1983, resulting in thousands of young people learning the craft and continuing the tradition of making the St. Brigid Cross and learning about issues of injustice, inequality, war and peace, while doing so.
In 1993, to mark ten years of the St. Brigid Peace Cross Campaign, we wanted to hold a conference in Kildare. Fortuitously, the Brigidine Sisters had just returned to Kildare and we joined with them and with many others to organise a memorable event entitled Brigid Prophetess, Earthwoman and Peacemaker. What was intended to be a once off event became instead, a series continuing for three decades during which we’ve had many memorable experiences, heard many extraordinary speakers and met many exceptional people.
Brigid’s message of peace and care for the Planet has always been a central theme. This message is even more urgent now as the horror of wars in Yemen, Ethiopia, Syria and Ukraine (to name but a few) wreak havoc on people and our precious planet. And sadly, the Irish government, instead of being a voice calling for de-escalation and disarmament is jumping on the band-wagon, becoming involved in aggressive military alliances and even developing its own weapons industry. A recent example was the government’s hosting of an ‘arms fair’ to introduce small businesses and Third Level Institutions to companies involved in the weapons industry – this meeting had the absurd title ‘Building the Eco System’!
In this context, Brigid’s message of Peace, her giving away her sword to a poor man – disarmament for development - is ever more urgent and must remain central to celebrations of Brigid – including in the new Public holiday in her name, which begins in 2023.