FINDING UNITY AFTER TRAGEDY: REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTCHURCH AND SRI LANKA
Words of Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, at the Muslim Sisters of Eire, IFTAR Gathering *
Hilton Hotel, Dublin, 1st June 2019
“Just over one month ago, on the Sunday following the Sri Lankan tragedy, I concluded my address in the Pro-Cathedral here in Dublin during prayers for Sri Lanka with these words:
May the God of peace touch all our hearts and bring us closer to each other in the knowledge that peace and not violence constitute the only sustainable future for our world and especially for our younger generation.
Speaking at a similar prayer service in the Pro-Cathedral on Saint Patrick’s Day, just days after the Christchurch tragedy I noted :
Racism and religious intolerance or the attempt to demonize the faith of another cannot ever be allowed to assume even a token tone of respectability or reasonableness. There is no such thing as half racism or partial intolerance. There is no way any society can think that racist or religious tolerance should take on any respectable place within it.
History shows that when racism and religious intolerance are not addressed they contain within themselves a frightening power for fostering hatred and social destruction.
An attack on a minority in a population, an attack on any single group within a population, is an attack on the entire population. Hatred and intolerance that in any way undermine that fundamental unity of human kind are an attack on the God who created us as a single human family.
The inspiration of the event in Christchurch – to attack people of prayer in two Mosques just because they were of a different faith – is something that offends Christian culture. The attack on Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka is an offence against the essential culture of Islam.
The Christian faith and Islam share the same fundamental view concerning the unique dignity of every human person. They insist on the unity of the human family. While throughout history there may have been dispersion of peoples or the accentuation of difference, all people are essentially destined to form one sole family according to God’s plan established `in the beginning’. We are all of God’s same race.
When we reflect on the two tragedies of Christchurch and Sri Lanka and the many other less dramatic examples that come to our mind we share not just outrage at the tragedy. We are called to reflect on how together we can foster and embed in our societies what religious tolerance means. We have to be on our guard to note and respond to what might even seem harmless comments of an intolerant nature.
Tolerance does not mean simple toleration, putting up with difference. Religious tolerance means accepting, welcoming, and shared understanding. The eradication of racial and religious prejudice calls for a strengthening of spiritual conviction. It demands a change of heart.
We live in an Ireland where such tolerance and respect are more than ever needed. I am not saying that we are an intolerant people. Tolerance however must be renewed, re-lived and re-written to respond to the changing situation in which we live. Tolerance must be built up and developed and get new heart from generation to generation. Tolerance must be embedded in our future generations to help them resist negative trends that might be inculcated from abroad or even from within our own traditions.
There must be tolerance between various faiths and religious traditions. There must be tolerance between people of faith and people who espouse no faith. Tolerance must be one where all allow their minds and hearts to be open to what being other involves. Pluralism in education, for example, must not result in mistrust or polemics on either side.
Tolerance also requires that believers and non-believers alike become more and more sensitive to the damage that can be done by narrow-mindedness and blind intransigence in our respective positions.
As a Christian leader, I can feel very much at home at this gathering of Sisters of Islam. You stress how “unity is key to success in any society and begins with a willingness to join hands on common ground”. You want your children to grow up in a tolerant, welcoming and peaceful society. Your commitment is vital for all our families and for the social structures of our society where the future of a tolerant and respectful Ireland will develop.
Tolerance does not eliminate difference. Tolerance rejoices in seeing people flourish in their difference. The more our Christian and Muslim faiths are really true to their respective faith, the more tolerance and love will flourish and bring a vital contribution to the future of Irish society.
I conclude as I began with those words of prayer:
May the God of peace touch all our hearts and bring us closer to each other in the knowledge that peace and not violence constitute the only sustainable future for our world and especially for our younger generation. ENDS