Dear Mr Gregory Campbell re: the Republican parades in Dungiven.
I heard you interviewed today and I kind of understand. You complained that the Parades Commission had not acted on alleged disrespect shown by a Republican band to a Protestant Church in Dungiven. I even saw the YouTube video of the incident.
You may very well be right and the Commission got that wrong, but here’s the thing, can you also complain if the Parades Commission do take action against a Loyalist band for disrespecting a Catholic church? So which decision do you really think they got wrong? Or if the failure to be consistent is your problem, where would you draw the standard against which consistency could be measured? The Dungiven model? or the St Patrick’s model?
Or are you saying that both cultures should be free to disrespect the other? That living in a society of mutual disrespect and intolerance is preferable to the alternative?
And since the Orders profess to be a Christian faith based organisation. My son wore one of those WWJD bracelets for a while. It’s a cliche I know, but think about it, are you seriously suggesting Jesus would have behaved the way the Parade did on Saturday?
Some things that occur to me.
Respect, for an individual or a culture, cannot be legislated or demanded. Not by any politician, not by any St Andrew’s Agreement, or any Commission. St Paul said that the Law kills but the Spirit gives life.
Respect has to be earned.
But something which I think is even more profound comes from the mouth of Jesus himself, and again, since the Orders profess to be a Christian movement, I would love to hear how they understand his words here in the context of the events last weekend.
Jesus said, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’. You can check it yourself in Luke 6:31.
Notice the verb at the beginning of the sentence. It suggests that the onus rests with you and me, and anyone who professes to follow Jesus. NOT the ‘others’. Do I want to be treated with respect by you? Then I must begin by acting towards you in the way I want you to act towards me. Do you want respect from an opposing community? Respect them first? Set the standard. If that’s not what that verse means, then enlighten me.
The bizarre thing is, I think Jesus words are both a command to us, and they are also a description of reality. When Loyalism disrespects Catholic culture the way they did on Saturday, and remember one of your colleagues described the behaviour as ‘inevitable’, then no one should be surprised if the exact same disrespect is reciprocated.
Treating others the way you want to be treated is an act of faith, particularly so in a conflicted society like ours. It is faith to believe profound change is possible. It is faith to believe that acting in the grace-full way transforms situations, either by wooing change from our adversary, or shaming them into change. Either way, the responsibility rests with you, or me, to model the new behaviours, rather than waiting for others to change first.
Dare to believe in the possibility of resurrection. Otherwise you’ll be burying your culture. Possibly alongside your enemy’s. Or maybe you’d prefer that.