‘Groundbreaking’ proposal for Northern Ireland’s first jointly managed church school set for consultation
Two small Co. Londonderry primary schools may make history by becoming the first jointly managed church school in Northern Ireland. Desertmartin Primary School and Knocknagin Primary School have expressed a desire to merge and be jointly managed by the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church. There are currently no schools of this type in Northern Ireland. Desertmartin is a Church of Ireland school, while Knocknagin is a Catholic maintained primary. Jointly managed faith schools are distinct from integrated schools. The proposed new school would be faith-based and have a Christian ethos.
‘A SIGNIFICANT OPPORTUNITY’
Speaking to the Gazette, the Secretary of the Board of Education, Dr Peter Hamill, has described the proposal for this jointly managed school as “a significant opportunity for two schools with a Christian ethos to be ground-breaking in Northern Ireland by following a new model that will ensure the teaching of the Christian faith in a cross-community setting”.
The encyclical message of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, held during the second half of June at the Orthodox Academy in Crete, is wide-ranging in terms of the subjects it covers (report, last week). Its Section VI is titled, ‘The Church in the face of globalisation, the phenomenon of extreme violence and migration’, which is an especially topical theme at this time. Indeed, tensions between Turkey and Russia had led to the venue for the Council being moved from Istanbul, where in the year 381, in then Constantinople, the Second Ecumenical Council was held.
On the issue of globalisation, the June encyclical states that this has created “new forms of systematic exploitation and social injustice”, leading to a widening of the gap between rich and poor and “undermining the social cohesion of peoples and fanning new fires of global tensions”. In opposing the phenomenon of globalisation, the encyclical states that “the Orthodox Church proposes the protection of the identities of peoples and the strengthening of local identity”. The document goes on to say that the Church is opposed to what it describes as the principle of the “autonomy of the economy” and the transformation of the economy into “an end in itself”.
Addressing the current increase in violence “in the name of God”, the encyclical states: “The explosions of fundamentalism within religious communities threaten to create the view that fundamentalism belongs to the essence of the phenomenon of religion. The truth, however, is that fundamentalism, as ‘zeal not based on knowledge’ (Romans 10: 2), constitutes an expression of morbid religiosity.” The true Christian, the encyclical states, is ready for self-sacrifice and “does not sacrifice others”. For that reason, it is stated, the Christian “is the most stringent critic of fundamentalism of whatever provenance” and it is stressed that honest interfaith dialogue contributes to “the development of mutual trust and to the promotion of peace and reconciliation”.
The Orthodox Church, the encyclical states, “follows with much pain and prayer and takes note of the great contemporary humanitarian crisis: the proliferation of violence and military conflicts; the persecution, exile and murder of members of religious minorities; the violent displacement of families from their homelands; the tragedy of human trafficking; the violation of the dignity and fundamental rights of individuals and peoples, and forced conversions. She condemns unconditionally the abductions, tortures and abhorrent executions. She denounces the destruction of places of worship, religious symbols and cultural monuments.”
Expressing a particular concern about the situation facing Christians and other persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East, the encyclical issues an appeal to governments in that region to protect the Christian populations – Orthodox, Ancient Eastern and other Christians – stating that the indigenous Christian and other populations enjoy “the inalienable right to remain in their countries as citizens with equal rights”. The encyclical continues: “The war and bloodshed must be brought to an end and justice must prevail so that peace can be restored and so that it becomes possible for those who have been exiled to return to their ancestral lands. We pray for peace and justice in the suffering countries of Africa and in the troubled country of Ukraine.
We reiterate most emphatically in conciliar unity our appeal to those responsible to free the two bishops who have been abducted in Syria, Paul Yazigi and John Ibrahim. We pray also for the release of all our brothers and sisters being held hostage or in captivity.”
Regarding the “ever intensifying refugee and migrant crisis”, the encyclical states movingly that the Orthodox Church “has always treated and continues to treat those who are persecuted, in danger and in need on the basis of the Lord’s words: ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, and was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me’, and ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brethren, you did for me’ (Matthew 25: 40)”.
Within the Orthodox family of Churches, controversy surrounded the Council but it is welcome news that the Russian Orthodox Church, which was one of the Churches that boycotted the Crete meeting, has declared it an “important event” and has committed to studying the documents that the Council issued.
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