Advent's cleansing already underway in Northern Ireland
Advent is held with equal regard in both Catholic and Protestant Churches and is now with us. It symbolises the coming of Christ and purification in both houses of Christianity.
It should be used as an opportunity for divided Christian Churches and peoples to come together in a small but significant way. Imagine a Catholic altar boy or girl coming to a Protestant church to hand over an Advent wreath to the vicar and Protestant choir boy or girl coming to a Catholic Church to do the same and then returning to their church? Would this be so outrageous? It would be very courageous and symbolic of breaking down division and letting go of the past. A gesture of goodwill in a society of forgotten virtues and a lack of creativity because of iron-fisted traditions. Advent has enormous significance in Christian Churches and symbolises “the coming” and of cleansing symbolised by the changing colour as it reaches purity.
Northern Ireland is going through a kind of Advent in daily life as it tries to purify itself from a dark past and hopefully reaching the purity of white in time, or as near as it can get to it. The Republic has also had its own shop of horrors and an opportunity to heal the suffering during Advent of its institutions; ironically many of them religious. Advent’s ‘coming’ also symbolises those who have worked for and ‘come’ to processes for peace and want a better way and harmony. Northern Ireland’s candle has been changing colour and we do not see the brutal bombing campaigns of the past, so one might dare to say that Advent is underway in Northern Ireland and its cleansing is underway, though the white candle is a way off yet. Northern Ireland should keep edging towards the white candle as it has been doing in just carrying on, despite political frustrations.
Life and times are a process of change and Christian Churches are in tune with it through Advent in seeing the need for cleansing and a coming of better tidings. It is long overdue – darkness must give way to light at some stage as summer follows winter. May the long, long, winter of suffering and strife come to an end, or at least clean itself up substantially.
Shanbally, Co Cork
Medieval law of blasphemy should be abolished
The offence of blasphemy was originally part of canon law. The medieval Church forged an act of parliament enabling the arrest and imprisonment of heretics under this law. During this time there is a long list of people burnt at the stake, which was used as a deterrent to anyone who dared to criticise the established Church. The most common punishment in the Bible for blasphemers was stoning to death justified by Leviticus 24: 13-16.
The last person sent to prison under blasphemy laws was in 1921, but a number of attempts have been made to use this law since that time.
Mary Whitehouse tried and failed in 1977 in an action against Gay News and in 2005 Christian Fundamentalists sought a private blasphemy against the BBC over Jerry Springer the Opera. Iran issued a Fatwa against Salman Rushdie over Satanic Verses and Christians have been persecuted under blasphemy laws in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
In March 2008 Gordon Brown’s Labour government abolished the law on blasphemy in England and Wales. Recently the Republic has done likewise. This medieval law of blasphemy and blasphemous libel continue to be offences in Northern Ireland so as a humanists I am calling on MLAs to make their position known about this law and hopefully when Stormont does reconvene abolish this anti-democratic law. Hopefully the Churches will support this call as I have said Christians are being persecuted at this very moment in different parts of the world on blasphemy laws.
Deeply held religious views should be open to debate and even ridicule. In a healthy society our beliefs should be regularly exposed to question and criticism.
Bangor, Co Down
Bordering on the absurd
Speaking to MPs on Wednesday December 5 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, stated: “Divided countries are not successful countries.”
This was the same day that Boris Johnson said the Northern Ireland backstop shows the “predatory nature of the EU’s claim” to the country.
Ms Priti Patel, helped the debate deteriorate further with comments on December 7 suggesting that the UK should use the potential of food shortages in Ireland as leverage against the backstop. In a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986 Ellie Wiesel said: “As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame.”
What will the Irish diaspora make of the sterility of thought emanating from the disunited kingdom?
There is a need for a full stop, given the lack of meaning associated with references to, ‘hard borders, soft borders and backstops’. It is a matter of fact that when it comes to the partition of Ireland, many British MPs have displayed their inadequate knowledge base. One might say it borders on the absurd.
Starve a population into compliance
The suggestion in a degrading way by a Tory MP that the UK government should use potential food shortages in Ireland as leverage in a no deal Brexit scenario has to be abhorred by the Irish government. Has this Tory person any idea of Irish history and particularly to An Gorta Mór in the mid-19th century and its consequences then and to this day.
The Famine was our Holocaust. Young Ireland leader John Mitchell said that “God sent the potato blight but the English created the Famine”.
There are evidential facts researched by the Irish historian and author Tim Pat Coogan that gives credence to the view of shocking combination of ambivalence, incompetence and malignance on the part of British policymakers.
Does this Tory MP believe they can attempt to starve a population into compliance?
JAMES G BARRY
Annual review of musical tastes
As 2018 expires on a noisy and acrimonious Brexit note it may be worthwhile to review our local musical tastes.
1. Michelle and the enchanters: Seven little girls sitting in the back seat;
2. Arlene and the 10 queens: Ring of Fire;
3. Sammy and club 27: To Love Somebody;
4. Jim Mac, the sole survivor: Twelfth of Never’;
5. Leo and the Motley Crew: Hello Mary Lou.
Michelle is a surprise winner. Arlene’s charm collapsed following a very poor performance at the RHI/precious union variety show.
Goodbye until 2019.
Craigavon, Co Armagh
Expression of thanks
The Search and Rescue Dog Association Ireland North would like to thank the people of Belfast and surrounding areas for their very generous donations on November 24. The sum raised was £2,885.94.