Today In Fact, 16 April

How the lessons of Tobruk and Dresden help Ulster. Today in 2012 Ray Davey died at the grand old age of 96. A northern Irish Protestant, Ray was born in 1915. A tall man of Scottish descent with large bushy eyebrows and a strong Scots jaw, Ray was a Presbyterian and very much part of the Protestant establishment in Belfast.

At the age of 25 Ray was ordained for field work with the YMCA War Service in North Africa, and helped to establish a centre in Tobruk for use by all faiths to care for the social, physical and spiritual needs of those engaged in desert warfare. He was taken captive in 1942 and held as a prisoner of war near Dresden, where he witnessed the allied bombing of the city, in which many civilians died.

The bombing of Dresden affected Ray deeply, underscoring the futility and destructiveness of all conflict. While a prisoner, Ray thought about building community amidst conflict.

On Ray’s return from the war, he was asked to be the Chaplain at Queens College, Belfast and established a community centre as part of his ministry. Ray and his wife Kathleen gathered around them a group of students and supporters who shared his vision of a community of Catholics and Protestants living together in peace.

In the mid 1960’s Ray bought a holiday home at Corymeela on the northern end of Ireland. Together with a team of dedicated communards, Ray built the Corrymeela Community, bringing together members of all faiths and none to various events, training experiences and shared living programmes.

Thousands of Irish people of all faiths have been through Corrymeela Community Programmes and have experienced personal growth and changed their attitudes to others as a result. The Corrymeels Community is strong of experience and deliberately light on theory. The idea being that living and working together does more to undo prejudice and hatred than long lectures and intricate theoretical constructs.

Might there be a need for a Corrymeela Community to be established in your community?

Douglas Racionzer (follow Doug’s unique glances at history on