President Higgins visits poet’s grave in Diocese of Connor parish
President Michael D. Higgins visited St John’s parish church, Donegore, near Templepatrick, Co. Antrim, on Thursday 27th October to see the grave of Irish poet Sir Samuel Ferguson.
The President then travelled a short distance up Donegore Hill to the studio of stained glass artist David Esler where he was shown a window crafted by members of the Dalaradia Group, a community organisation of men who wish to make a positive and peaceful commitment to conflict transformation.
The same group had voluntarily given their time to tidy up the St John’s graveyard, including Sir Samuel Ferguson’s grave, and to clean all the windows in the church, almost 200 years old but on the site of an Anglican church dating to the 14th century.
Remembrance-tide is associated with the poppy, paper replicas of which are distributed by the British Legion in return for donations towards supporting work with the Armed Forces community. Poppies are worn in respectful remembrance of those who gave their lives as Servicemen and women. The British Legion itself recalls: “The first Poppy Appeal was held in 1921, the founding year of The Royal British Legion. Red silk poppies, inspired by the famous World War I poem, In Flanders Fields, sold out instantly and raised more than £106,000. The funds helped WWI veterans find employment and housing after the war. The following year, the Poppy Factory was set up, employing disabled ex-Servicemen to create the poppies to sell during the appeal. Today, the factory still produces millions of poppies each year.”
This time of the year is a time for remembering with profound gratitude those who suffered and died that we might live in the freedom that we enjoy; the poppy is the emblem of such respectful remembering. It is easy to become used to a privilege and to a certain way of life and for that reason to become oblivious to the cost that was involved, in human terms, in winning that privilege or way of life for us. War is to be avoided if at all possible but at times terrible atrocities are committed by states against either their own people or another country – or both. Armed response, duly authorised according to international law, may be necessary to curb atrocities and the cruel oppression of helpless people. Those who serve the cause of freedom and decency in the Services deserve our support and those who, in the process, lose their lives, often in brutal circumstances, deserve to be respectfully remembered.
Today, the war in Syria, displacing so many people and causing so many to flee abroad for their own safety, is a brutal reminder of the harsh realities of war and its consequences. Precisely how to address such situations, and indeed the rise of so-called Islamic State, is a matter for duly constituted governments in diplomatic and military alliance with each other.
In his final address to the United Nations as US President last September, Barack Obama looked back over the past eight years and was keen to encourage his listeners while at the same time showing a clear realism. He said: “Indeed, our international order has been so successful that we take it as a given that great powers no longer fight world wars; that the end of the Cold War lifted the shadow of nuclear Armageddon; that the battlefields of Europe have been replaced by peaceful union; that China and India remain on a path of remarkable growth. I say all this not to whitewash the challenges we face, or to suggest complacency. Rather, I believe that we need to acknowledge these achievements in order to summon the confidence to carry this progress forward and to make sure that we do not abandon those very things that have delivered this progress.”
At the same time, President Obama warned, in the context of the Middle East today, that the “mindset of sectarianism and extremism and bloodletting and retribution that has been taking place will not be quickly reversed” and called for the international community to “continue to work with those who seek to build rather than to destroy”.
The world is a restless place and at times its restlessness spills over into violence that perpetrates unspeakable cruelty and disregard for human life. At Remembrancetide in Ireland, we can never forget the terrible events at the War Memorial in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday 1987, when terror was unleashed on innocent people paying their respects to the war dead. The perverseness of the attack signals the deep moral depths to which human beings can sink. Some say it is better to forget past wars and to ‘move on’. Yet, respectful remembering has its vital part to play in seeking to avoid war in future, if at all possible, because such remembering calls to mind the suffering and loss that are inherent in war. Moreover, on Remembranbce Sunday, it is before God that we remember those who have suffered and died, and on Remembrance Sunday we pray that God will strengthen our resolve to make this world, more and more, a peaceful place.
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THE SPLASH OF WORDS. BELIEVING IN POETRY Author: Mark Oakley Publisher: Canterbury Press
THE STORY OF MONASTICISM. RETRIEVING AN ANCIENT TRADITION FOR CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUALITY Author: Greg Peters Publisher: Baker Academic; pp.278
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