The following p.s. is issued as part of Community Relations Week 2012, which takes place from May 14 to May 20, organised by the Community Relations Council, with the theme ‘No More Them and Us?’ Over 150 events will take place across all local council areas making this the biggest event in the community relations calendar.
A full listing of Community Relations Week events can be found at www.nicrc.org.uk and printed programmes can be obtained from local libraries. Click here for details of our ‘In Conversation With Ian Bothwell’ on Tuesday 15 May.
I have snapshots in my head of mindless hatred by one tribe against another in various parts of this Province. At first sight it appears to be excused by saying that those involved are unthinking and therefore not really to blame – they are merely acting out of ignorance, but it is more complicated than that. Even a cursory reading of European history shows the revulsion displayed by all classes of society towards those they consider the enemy. Hitler’s abhorrence of the Poles and Polish Jews in particular allowed an official policy of human destruction that aimed to reduce the population of Warsaw by 400,000 people and decimate the population of the entire country by over 10%.
The staggering outworking of these evil philosophies involved ordinary people, who previously were workers, husbands, football supporters, bird watchers and fathers. Either as a result of self preservation or indoctrination they were the direct cause of the death of millions!
Let us walk backwards to this tiny portion of land and realise the evidence of the same kind of mindless hatred in our midst. Some, in fits of self delusion would argue that people progress away from baser instincts to higher causes but the cycle of history debunks such ideals. Evil lies within waiting to be stirred by one cause or another.
Jesus entered such a world to bring his church into being. In his day people lived in opposing tribes promoting their own cultural superiority and hating the other. The saying that the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans is drawn from the reality of that age. He chose people from opposing tribes and cultures, forgave their sins and welded them together in his love. This is not a superficial unity that ticks boxes but a supernatural process that dissolves hatred and infuses love so that people who once were enemies are able to dwell in peace and harmony with new purpose found in Christ.
The answer then is partially a political one but it must flow from life changing experiences that really unite people in Christ and thus take the hatred away! Hearts will never be changed by any political process – only Christ can do that!
Philip Brown is Pastor of Newry Baptist Church.