Category Archives: War and peace

Al Hijra/Rosh Hashana

This year, the Islamic New Year coincided with the start of the Jewish New Year celebration. Let this be a harbinger of peace among all the Abrahamic peoples, and all the peoples of the earth.

Salaam aleikum. Shalom Alekhem.

Hope Reborn

Yes, I know.

Guantánamo is still functioning.

The US  is still violating Pakistani sovereignty and killing civilians with drones.

Not to mention the Dodge City-style slaying of Osama Bin Laden.

But it would take a heart of stone not to be stirred by the outpouring of joy and sheer relief at President Obama’s victory in the election. There will be stormy waters ahead, but at least the healthcare package is safe for now, and there is less possibility of an attack on Iran.

So go for it, Mr President. Face down the bigots, racists and ignoramuses. You have four years to pursue what makes for peace and reconciliation in America and in the world, and to start creating a truly compassionate order.

We’re praying for you.

Wicked leaks?

This blog has been in abeyance for some time, owing to pressure of other things, but the enforced idleness imposed by the snow, plus a couple of recent events, have triggered the desire to blog again.

I must confess to feeling somewhat ambivalent about the Wikileaks business. I know I would be very put out if, e.g., our Vestry felt it could not fly kites in private, for fear of being quoted out of context. When I was a line manager (horrible phrase), I took care not to make proposals known to colleagues until they were mature (the proposals, that is). I was determined that half-baked or provisional or adventurous ideas would not become the stuff of rumour and paranoia.

Confidentiality is even more defensible when large diplomatic or security issues are at stake, and when lives may even be put at risk.

Having said that, my anarchist streak makes me have a sneaking sympathy with Julian Assange, even allowing for the fact that he is probably carrying on a vindictive vendetta against the US. There is too much being done in our name that is being kept secret from us.

Nevertheless, the most valuable revelations of the last few years (e.g., abuse of civilians in Iraq) have become public knowledge through the efforts of investigative journalism, which ultimately works under some sort of accountability, however tenuous. To whom is JA accountable?

Ruach

I cherish those occasions in my life when I have been deeply moved by the awareness of the Holy Spirit bursting through all our cowardice and equivocation, and leading us into new uplands of truth, light and freedom. Two such occasions stand out. One was in 1992, when the General Synod of the Church of England passed the legislation enabling the ordination of women to the priesthood. I happened to be at home, enjoying a rare sabbatical, and heard the announcement on the radio. It was not only the significance of the measure that struck me, but the sensitive, prayerful way in which it was announced, and the absence of triumphalism.

The second occasion was yesterday, with the publication of the Saville report into the shootings in Derry in 1972. Again, it was a combination of the importance of what was happening, and the manner in which it was announced. I am not a fan of the Conservatives, but I unreservedly salute David Cameron for the courage and honesty with which he laid before a silent Commons the full implications of the report, and made a clear and unequivocal apology. It is rare to be able to say that about any politician. A tip of the hat, too, to Tony Blair, for whom I usually have even less time, for I’m convinced that if Blair had not promised to hold a judicial enquiry in 1998, there would have been no Peace Process.

My prayer now is that all those who have lived for 38 years with the consequences of that terrible day, both the families of those killed or wounded, and those who have carried the burden of guilt for unlawful acts, state-sanctioned or otherwise, will at last find peace and healing, and that, as on the earlier occasion, there will be no triumphalism or vindictiveness.

Reconciliation or equivocation?

I’m as anxious as anyone to see real peace in Northern Ireland, but I don’t think the proposal in the Eames/Bradley report to give a ‘recognition payment’ of £12,000 to anyone who had a relative killed in the troubles is the right way to go about it. It sends entirely the wrong signals to anyone who lost a loved one at the hands of one or other of the paramilitaries, or the family of an innocent civilian killed by the security forces (yes, there were several, over and above those shot by the paras in Derry in 1972). There is simply no equivalence between this category of victim and those paramilitaries who met death in shoot-outs with the security forces, or who blew themselves up when planting bombs in public places.

Having said that, the proposals for a legacy commission and a reconciliation forum are promising. In optimal circumstances, they could turn into something akin to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But I fear that the good bits will be obscured by the controversial notion of the payments.

Sacrosanct

Over at Kelvin’s blog, there’s an interesting set of reflections on the erosion of trust caused by the climate of fear of terrorism in which we live. It prompted a thought about a notorious incident in 1987, when the Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen was bombed by the IRA. A clergy friend, who was there, preached about the incident on the following Sunday, focusing on the theme of the ‘sacrosanct’. As he saw it, the breaching of the wall against which the bystanders were waiting was the crossing of a boundary: something hitherto considered untouchable (people meeting ritually to honour the dead) had been violated.

It’s the ‘Glencoe principle’, in a way: as heinous as the violation of the rules of hospitality. Nothing new, you might say, but it’s reached new depths with the phenomenon of death and destruction being plotted by doctors, whose vocation is to save life, and who normally evoke our unquestioning trust.

It’s tempting to conclude that nothing is sacrosanct, but we can’t live in fear. Trust, hospitality, openness are more to be valued and honoured than ever. How do we do this while having a proper concern for our safety? I’m not sure I know the answer to that.