McPherson area students this summer will again work toward ending religious strife in Northern Ireland as the Ulster Project begins today.

McPherson area students this summer will again work toward ending religious strife in Northern Ireland as the Ulster Project begins today.

The Ulster Project attempts to break down division and misunderstanding between catholics and protestants. Eight teens from Northern Ireland are paired with eight McPherson area students. Four of the Irish teens are catholic and four are protestant. Each teen will be paired with a host family of the same faith alignment.

Throughout the month of July, the teens will perform and attend many activities and events together. Time is also set aside for the teens to examine and discuss religious conflict in Northern Ireland.

Jenny Steiner, a McPherson High School junior, is participating in the project as her family is hosting Sarah McNally, an Irish catholic from Portadown.

“I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be such a learning experience,” Steiner said. “We all think (the conflict) is silly, which is why we’re trying to fix it.”

Steiner, who said she became interested in the project after an individual spoke about the project at her church, said participating would mean sacrificing some of her summer, but that it would be well worth it.

JJ Krehbiel, a 2009 McPherson High School graduate, was partnered with an Irish teen in the project last year and said those involved this year would not regret it.

“They’re going to have a lot of fun. It’s probably going to be one of the best, if not the best, summer they’ve ever had,” Krehbiel said.

Krehbiel said the most important thing he got out of the project was friendship. In fact, two Irish teens who participated in the project last year are currently visiting Krehbiel.

Steven Sterain, a Presbyterian and one of the individuals staying with Krehbiel, said that after being a part of the project last summer, he continued to meet up with Catholic friends he had met from the project.

According to Sterain, ending the strife would be difficult.

“It sort of seems impossible. It was only when we went back that we realized how bad it is,” Sterain said.

Sterain said that while his parents approved of his participation in the Ulster Project, he didn’t reveal to some of his aunts and uncles that we was traveling with catholics.

Conner Williamson, a Catholic Irish teen also staying with Krehbiel, contrasted the United States and Northern Ireland by pointing out that in America is there is only one national anthem, one flag and one country.

“You can go wherever you want and you don’t have to be afraid,” Williamson said.

The Irish teens will arrive in McPherson this evening and the Ulster Project’s first major public event will be this Saturday, as the project holds a car wash fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rinse and Roll.