Sunday 19 January 2020

Hard border would be a threat to peace - Bishop

A return of a hard border would pose an enormous risk to peace according to the Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran.

In his homily and World Day of Peace message for New Year's Day delivered at Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo, Bishop Doran said a hard border would also be very inconvenient and costly.

"The return of a physical border would almost inevitably lead to the militarisation of the border regions in both jurisdictions. In recent weeks the fear of a disorderly Brexit has diminished, but much of the uncertainty still remains.

"The physical border, as many of us remember it, was the product of a mentality, to be found in both communities in the North and on both islands, that our cultural, political and religious differences meant that there could be no common understanding or trust between us.

"The physical infrastructure of the border was the fruit of that mentality and, of course, it tended to reinforce that mentality. If we hope the prevent the return of that hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, then we need to keep open the channels of communication and to develop relationships of trust.

"Local authorities and businesses, sports clubs, schools and Church communities can all contribute to this in the course of their daily activity.

"I think it is important, however, that we also acknowledge the existence of other borders in Ireland; borders which in recent years are becoming more visible.

"I'm thinking of the growing division between urban society and rural society, which has been brought about by the serious imbalance of population; the over-development of our cities and the underdevelopment of rural areas.

"Alongside this urban-rural divide, the past year has seen the breakdown of trust between farmers and the meat processing industry. The same need for honest and respectful dialogue applies in situations such as this," he said.

The Bishop also addressed the issue of refugees arriving in Ireland and of the need for State agencies to engage with local communities.

"The tensions and violence of recent years in North Africa and the Middle East have given rise to very high levels of migration as people try to get themselves and their families into a place of safety where they can live normal lives. Given the scale of the problem, the numbers of refugees who have arrived here in Ireland is relatively small.

"But, in one place after another, difficulties have arisen, which have resulted in vulnerable people being made to feel unwelcome. If you were to ask why this has happened, I think the answer, once again, is that trust has been undermined by a lack of appropriate communication.

"Small numbers of people promoting a racist agenda have been able to exercise undue influence in local communities, partly because State agencies have shown a remarkable reluctance to involve local communities in preparing for the arrival of refugees. This needs to change, because understanding and trust are essential components of peace.

"Back in the 1970's and the 1980's, division between Catholics and Protestants, which was more pronounced in Northern Ireland, was an aspect of how Ireland was understood and defined all over the world.

"While we continue to have our distinct identities as communities of faith, new and more positive relationships have developed between communities, thanks in no small measure to the witness given by the leaders of the main Christian Churches in Northern Ireland. Perhaps the bigger challenge facing Christians today is the frontier between faith and unbelief.

"Some in our society obviously feel threatened by faith while others are quite uncomfortable in the presence of unbelief. For us Christians, inspired by the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the question must be: "how can we live our own faith with integrity and be witnesses to Christ in the world, while at the same time working alongside unbelievers to build a better and more peaceful world"?

"This will be difficult at times because of fundamentally different understandings of the human person and of what constitutes the common good.

"Nonetheless, we can only live and work effectively together, when we are prepared to engage in honest and respectful dialogue. We certainly won't do it by building walls.

"What we Christians ask in return is that we are allowed the freedom to practice and profess our faith openly, and to be accepted as equal partners in society," said Bishop Doran.

Sligo Champion