OPEN LETTER to REVEREND IAN PAISLEY
(taken from The Catholic Standard, August, 1982)
Dear Dr. Paisley,
This letter comes to you from the other end of the world, with all the goodwill in the world. I write to you because I personally believe that you hold a key to the solution of Northern Ireland‘s problems.
I say this in all sincerity because:
- you love Northern Ireland
- you love your people,
- you are a very influential figure, and
- you are a Minister of Religion.
Why should I care about Northern Ireland?
I care because:
- I love Northern Ireland – I was born there and spent the first twenty-five years of my life there
- I love the people of Northern Ireland, because they are my people, too, and
- I, too, am a Minister of Religion -ordained Dublin, 1946.
Solutions for Northern Ireland’s problems have been sought after and much talked about. Politicians of every persuasion have had a go. Westminster has tried and certainly not yet succeeded: violent men have tried to impose their solution on the people; women of peace and people of prayer would have had more success had they more support and universal leadership.
So it is true to say that the results of all the efforts so far have been sad indeed. And yet we must continue to hope.
Where do we place the hope? – in politicians? – in violence? – in imposition of a non-universally acceptable form of government? No.
Our hope must be in Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
But who will lead all the people to him, and how?
St Francis of Assisi prayed:
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord;
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.
If only all the people in Northern Ireland would make that prayer their own! Personally, I feel that most of them could, and would, say it; but they need to be led into saying it together. They need to be shown by clear, Christ-like leadership that the way ahead leads to peace.
And that’s why I said earlier that I think you hold a key: you can open up a door; you can be a bridge-builder between the two communities. I am quite convinced that there are Catholic clergy in Northern Ireland who would be only too willing to stand, side by side, with you at any venue that you cared to nominate, and that together you could draw hundreds of thousands of people into an atmosphere of goodwill.
We have to accept that God loves everyone and He wants us to love one another – and show it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus rejected an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and told us that we were to love even our enemies (Matt. 5).
Isaiah had already said in prophecy:
And, again, in St Paul, we read the words:
Surely we can accept all this and remain true to our respective traditions. It has been well and truly proven that there is no happiness or peace to be found in toe-to-toe mud-slinging about the atrocities of the past. Every effort must be made to leave the past where it belongs and not blame the present generation for what happened then.
The present generation of violent men will ridicule what I suggest should be done, but, if we are truly Christian, i.e. followers of Christ, we should be able to withstand a bit of ridicule, when we think of Calvary.
And so, while you love your people, and I love mine, let’s accept our Lord’s way and say, we love our people. I firmly believe this can be done.
I firmly believe that both communities could be brought together in such a way that Catholics could joyfully join in celebrating the traditional 12th of July. And this would not be without precedent because not everyone in Northern Ireland is aware of the fact that King William’s victory at the Boyne was celebrated in the Vatican!
And I cannot foresee that both communities would have any difficulty in celebrating March, St Patrick’s Day.
What a happy place Northern Ireland would then become! Instead of indulging in slogans that incite the people to anger and revenge, they could march together under the banner of the Lord – which would carry the message of peace and love to all.
Very Rev. Mons. B. C. Rogers, M.B.E.
Vicar-General, Archdiocese of Hobart,
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If you have read this Open Letter, and missed Miracle of the Violinist, I suggest you DO read it. You will learn how VERY SIGNIFICANT this Letter has been in the recent history of Northern Ireland.