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Where the streets have no name

To help students develop a vision of a world without division (SEAL theme 2, ‘Learning to be together’).

by Paul Hess

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To help students develop a vision of a world without division (SEAL theme 2, ‘Learning to be together’).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the song ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ by U2 from their album The Joshua Tree. You could also use another U2 track, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, from the album War, although this is not essential.
  • Both songs can be also found on the compilation CD, U2 The Best of 1980–1990 and are easily downloadable.
  • The words to ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ are found on http://www.lyricsfreak.com/u/u2/sunday+bloody+sunday_20141428.html

Assembly

  1. If you are using it, play ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ as students enter, then talk about the artists.

    That the work of U2 should be rooted in gritty social reality is hardly surprising. The members of U2 were raised in Dublin, in southern Ireland in the 1960s and 70s. Like Belfast, Dublin was a place of bitter mistrust between Catholics and Protestants. In Belfast, that mistrust became violence and unrest, to the extent that British troops were stationed there to try and keep the peace. In their poignant song ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ - the title is a reference to the notorious shooting of Catholic civilians by British Army personnel on Sunday 30 January 1972 - U2 give tragically eloquent expression to the pain and futility of the Irish conflict:
  2. Read the lyrics of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, verses two and three. Start at ‘Broken bottles…’ and end after ‘…sisters torn apart’.
  3. Play about two minutes of ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. It’s powerful stuff – play it loud!
  4. In that divided Northern Ireland street names were a means of identifying which part of town you came from, whether you were Protestant or Catholic. Street names expressed the divisions of the people.

    ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ is thus a vision of a place where there is no Catholic and no Protestant: a vision of unity, a city where there are no barriers dividing people. It is reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s famous dream that white and black people, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will one day join hands to overcome the old divisions.
  5. As we look at our world today, we might add to that list a hope that the barriers between Christian and Muslim will disappear, that the hatred and violence will be replaced by forgiveness and reconciliation.
  6. In the songs of U2 and in the dream of Martin Luther King we see the tension between a starkly honest acknowledgement of the world as it is – full of violence and division – and the deep longing for a world as it should be: a place of peace and justice and love.
  7. We know that the world, the world in which you are becoming adults, is filled with violence and division. We cannot pretend that the brutality of the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in many other places, does not exist – we cannot simply avert our gaze. But neither must we give way to despair. Instead we must continue to work towards fulfilling Martin Luther King’s dream, to creating cities where the streets have no name.
  8. That begins with us – here and now. Let us commit ourselves to making this school a place where all people are respected, no matter what their colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Time for reflection

In a famous passage from the letter to the Galatians, St Paul – who also lived in a time of great divisions – explains that all of us are sons and daughters of God. 

‘For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3.26–28)

Prayer
Lord, in the midst of the darkness and violence of our world,
grant us the grace of hope and the power of vision.
In a world blighted by evil and eroded by despair,
grant that we may never stop dreaming of a world of peace and unity,
and never tire of working to make it a reality.
Play the music as the students leave.

Publication date: January 2010   (Vol.12 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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