Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland inspired by the people he witnessed working towards peace during his childhood in Derry

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has spoken of how he was inspired by peace-loving people when he was growing up in Derry.

In his New Year’s message, Archbishop Eamon Martin said everyone can contribute towards peace in 2017.

“As a teenager growing up in Derry, I remember being inspired by the witness of the Peace People who brought many ordinary people onto the streets in a call for an end to the terrible violence at that time,” said Archbishop Martin.

“The mid-seventies saw some of the most shocking bombings and shootings of “the Troubles”.  Terrible tit-for-tat sectarian murders were leaving more and more families bereaved and traumatised.

“It is hard to believe that it is now forty years since Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams were awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for their courageous stand against all violence.

“They touched my heart at the time, and the hearts and minds of so many ordinary women and men from every community who had enough of awful violence and who wanted to help build a better future based on dialogue, reconciliation, peace and cooperation.

“Some people said that the Peace People were naive, others, that they were being manipulated.

“For me, their message and actions were motivated by a strong belief in non-violence and a conviction that peace begins from the ground up in the simple yet powerful actions of good people who want to break the downward cycle of death and destruction.”

Archbishop Martin said that over Christmas a man expressed to me his frustration about being unable to make a difference to the violence in the world.

“From Aleppo to Berlin, from Mosul to Cairo, we see such terrible things happening in every corner of the globe.  “What are we to do, he asked?” I found it difficult to give an easy answer.

“I suggested that the first thing we all need to do is to look into our own hearts and minds. Because it is here that all violence, anger, and the desire for revenge and retaliation begin.

“Sadly, there is so much violence even in our own neighbourhoods and violence and aggression is often hidden in families behind the front doors of our own homes.
“I was shocked recently to learn of the extent of domestic violence that leads to phone calls every twenty minutes or so to police and support services.

“We can all contribute during 2017 to peace if we learn to model our lives more closely on the beautiful, yet challenging example of Jesus.

“Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Mother Teresa, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux assure us that little acts of love and kindness can melt even the most stubborn of vengeful hearts.

“Dr Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, the Peace People and many others since have shown that it is possible to mould the path of non-violence and non-retaliation into a powerful movement for change and reconciliation.”

Meanwhile, in his New Year’s message, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Ken Good said that we live in a time when many people feel ‘anxious, disenfranchised, fearful or lost’.

“2016 has certainly been a memorable year on the global stage. Brexit and Trump have confounded the pollsters and wrong-footed the so-called experts,” he said.

“They have also polarised opinion, with few people being ambivalent about either.

“Oxford Dictionaries have chosen the compound word ‘post-truth’ as their international word of the year for 2016. ‘Post-truth’, they state, is the term which best captures the ethos, mood or pre-occupations of the past year.

“Disturbingly Oxford Dictionaries also say the prefix ‘post’ has, in this context, a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant’. Truth – unimportant? Irrelevant?

“For Christians, truth is never unimportant or irrelevant. It is paramount.

“We live in an era when many people feel anxious, disenfranchised, fearful or lost. There is a longing for answers, as people are desperately in need of truth, urgently seeking peace in their lives.

“In John 14, Jesus says: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’. Discovering the truth we need for a life built on solid foundations and finding the peace we yearn for can only come as we entrust ourselves completely to Christ. He is the source of truth who can transform our lives.”

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