‘Anti-clericalism in Ireland is overestimated’ – Bishop Burrows tells CIPSMA conference
Speaking at the recent annual conference of the Church of Ireland Primary Schools Management Association (CIPSMA) about the role of school patrons, the Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, raised the question of whether they should remain individuals or whether a corporate patron should be set up for the Church of Ireland.
He suggested that the Republic’s Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD, might like patrons to be abolished, but stated that he had never met any hostility to the idea that he himself was a patron, adding: “Anti-clericalism in Ireland is overestimated. There is more of a soul to this country than the newspapers would have us believe and it will go on. It will change.
Bishop Williams to retire
Last week, the Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Rt Revd Trevor Williams, announced his intention to retire in July.
CHRISTIANITY IN NORTH KOREA
The California-based OpenDoors organisation works in the world’s most oppressive countries, encouraging Christians in the face of persecution. In its 2014 country ‘World Watch List’, for the 12th consecutive year it has placed North Korea as the country where Christian persecution is most extreme. The list ranks 50 nations where persecution of Christians of all denominations for religious reasons is worst.
Regarding North Korea, OpenDoors states: “The God-like worship of the leader, Kim Jong-un, and his predecessors leaves no room for any other religion, and Christians face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life. Forced to meet only in secret, they dare not share their faith even with their families, for fear of imprisonment in a labour camp. Anyone discovered engaging in secret religious activity may be subject to arrest, disappearance, torture, even public execution.”
North Korea, a totalitarian communist country and perhaps the most secretive nation in the world, features frequently in the news for its nuclear ambitions and provocative missile testing. It maintains closest relations with China and doesn’t seem to mind its considerable isolation from the wider international community; most embassies with diplomatic links to North Korea operate from the Chinese capital, Beijing, and are not located in the North Korean capital itself, Pyongyang. Nonetheless, China appears at some unease in its relationship with North Korea.
Following World War II, the Japanese occupation of Korea ended. Soviet troops occupied the north, and American troops occupied the south. The first North Korean leader was President Kim Il-sung, who was named ‘Eternal President’ in 1998, four years after his death. His successor in 1994 was his son, Kim Jong-il, who became the nation’s leader but did not assume the title of ‘President’. Following his death in 2011, his son, Kim Jong-un, succeeded him in office. According to reports, it is unknown whether 33 people, who were sentenced to death by Kim Jongun earlier in March for supposedly having contact with South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jungwook, are still alive. To say that North Korea is hostile to Christianity clearly would be an understatement.
Isolation is always unhealthy. Just as the Church itself is a community in which individuals rely on one another, so too a nation must strive to develop its life as a community and, further, so must the nations of the world look to the wider community of all human beings. To be isolated leads to loss of proper perspective and, especially in an oppressive totalitarian country, to fear itself. Yet, it is difficult to know how best to approach the difficult task of freeing Christians in North Korea from the terrible persecution they suffer. In such a context one is grateful for the work of organisations such as OpenDoors. Certainly, whatever diplomatic channels are open need to be carefully nurtured and Christians everywhere will rightly work and pray for a truly new day in North Korea.
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