Last Thursday night at All Soul’s Church on Elmwood Avenue was a fascinating night. It was the 2nd AKT Event, hosted by Emma Cowan of Corrymeela and focused on the topic of Welcome and in partnership with Jayme Reaves we hosted a table on the theology of welcome. I remember saying to David Stevens that there wouldn’t be a more diverse group meeting in Belfast this night or any night in the near future.
One of the tables featured migrant workers telling their stories of being strangers in a strange land.
In many ways I’m glad it wasn’t this week, when the myth of the cead mile failte Ireland took another battering at the hands of racist thugs.
I agree, it’s too simplistic a thing to say that this is loyalist sectarianism transferring to fascistic racism. It was good to hear Frankie Gallagher of the UPRG speaking up and condemning it unreservedly. But I think we must also be honest and face up to an element within loyalism which is self-destructive and ugly. Face up to the fact that, as in many places the world over, the foot soldiers that supported the the erstwhile colonial power are doomed.
Sometimes I wonder whether there is anything redeemable in loyalism.
All that said, in the midst of what has been a shameful episode, I noted in the Radio Ulster news this morning two pieces which featured faith groups responding creatively to need among the most vulnerable.
One was, I’m not ashamed to say, our own East Belfast Mission. Jackie Millar and Mark Houston spoke up eloquently on our work with those who find themselves unemployed. The other was City Church in their ready willingness to provide shelter for those who had been intimidated from their homes. They also featured on the RTE Radio Morning Ireland programme. Honourable mention also to Fitzroy Presbyterian, round the corner from City Church who were mentioned by the Lord Mayor.
The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD