COI Gazette – 9th May 2014

‘Tackling Violence: Building Peace’ to be theme of 11th-17th May Christian Aid Week


Nine-year-old Edile lives in Colombia in a humanitarian zone protected by international law. Here he is safe from the armed groups that killed his father. (Photo: Christian Aid/Matt Gonzalez-Noda)

Nine-year-old Edile lives in Colombia in a humanitarian zone protected by international law. Here he is safe from the armed groups that killed his father. (Photo: Christian Aid/Matt Gonzalez-Noda)

Christian Aid Week, which begins on Sunday 11th May, is asking the public throughout Ireland to support communities in war-ravaged countries to rebuild their lives and live a life free from fear.

Christian Aid has worked hard over the years to identify some of the root causes that trap people in poverty. Natural disasters, climate change, unfair trading, tax dodging and land theft are some of the reasons why so many people are destitute.

However, for many millions of people across the world, conflict is the cause of their poverty and an impediment to development. Conflict is a part of their everyday life. It destroys lives and communities and prevents people from earning a living.

Rosamond Bennett, Chief Executive of Christian Aid Ireland, said: “War tears lives apart. It leaves people broken, brutalised, grief-stricken and afraid. We work with partners in many countries who are dealing with the challenges of current conflict or the legacy that war leaves behind – places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria which are regularly in the news, but also countries like Angola and Sierra Leone that are still rebuilding many years after the fighting has stopped.”



The annual Christian Aid Week, which this year runs from 11th-17th May, sees parishes and congregations throughout Churches in Ireland and Britain focus not only on the vast need there is in the world but also on the causes of poverty, alerting us all both to pray and think more widely, and more deeply, about the issues involved.

With 2014 seeing Christian Aid focus especially on the devastating effects of war, the unavoidable truth becomes clear, namely, that war not only leads to injury and death but also causes immense poverty. People’s livelihoods are shattered. War causes injury; war causes death; and war causes poverty.

War also affects many people who are already living in poverty, and it does so in many different ways. As Christian Aid says: “People are driven in terror from their homes, turning whole families – entire communities – into refugees, wrenched from the familiar and the things they hold most dear. The threat of violence often gives way to the grinding life of poverty. And the feeling that pervades is a relentless and crippling sense of fear.”

The fear that the organisation speaks of here is fear for one’s own life, fear for loved ones and fear for the future. To see the lives of loved ones, and one’s own life, placed in jeopardy by violence is not something that anyone should ever have to experience, yet this is precisely what tens of millions of people in our world today are experiencing – lives of fear.

The future is also a subject of fear because people do have to see their way into the future – to have some idea of what life is most probably going to be like tomorrow – if their lives are to have real stability. It is only on the basis of stable lives that plans can be made, education advanced and commerce made possible. The life that everyone looks for is a stable life and war results in the opposite: chaos and ruined lives.

Into this situation, the Church can bring at least two things. First, the Church can bring the message of God’s love for every human being and of the strength that comes from faith, by the grace of God, to meet adversity. This is the spiritual good that the Church can bring to every person.

Yet words of assurance, no matter how sincere and true, need the second thing that the Church can bring: action that reveals the sincerity and truth of words. Faith and works are inextricably linked. It is precisely here that Christian Aid, as well as other similar organisations, helps, enabling the prayers of those who are fortunate enough to be at a distance from the dangers in the world’s war-zones to be joined to acts of generosity.

Christian Aid Week is a time for all of us to make a financial donation to help the organisation’s outreach of Christian concern and love for the world.

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Letters to the Editor

Protestant education concerns in Republic of Ireland

Following a national meeting of concerned teachers, parents and clergy in Longford, a deputation met with Minister Ruairí Quinn in April to highlight the growing concerns of Irish Protestants to education policies in the primary, secondary and tertiary sector in the Republic of Ireland which negatively and disproportionally impact on their communities. Individuals from the main Reformed Churches met with the Minister.

It was recognised that minority faith groups had been treated fairly by successive governments in the past. However, Minister Quinn was asked if he realised that the consequence of the government’s present and proposed policies was to close the majority of Protestant schools in the country.

Huge concerns were expressed with regard to the closure of the Church of Ireland College of Education in Rathmines and the Minister was made aware that a motion to review the amalgamation of CICE with Dublin City University was passed without objection at the General Synod.

He was also alerted to the pressures exerted on primary and secondary schools due to current Department policies: the retention schedule, viability, changes in school enrolment, the employment of teachers in one-teacher schools, penal eligibility criteria for school transport, reductions in grants, and changes in the role of religious education.

On the face of it, the Minister was told, government policy appears to treat everyone equally, but this equal treatment leads to devastatingly unequal outcomes for Protestant-managed schools.

If viability for a sustainable school at primary level is based on the four-teacher model, 60% of Protestant schools will close in comparison to 11% of Roman Catholic schools. The retention schedule leads to accelerated reduction in enrolment because the enrolment for rural Protestant schools comes from a smaller pool of families. Hence, viability based on pupil/teacher ratio is a crude and unacceptable measure for widely dispersed minority groups. The Budget 2012 roll out of pupil/teacher ratios over the four years means that 50% of Protestant schools are directly impacted.

The proposed Value for Money Report, if officially adopted, the Minister was told, will reduce Protestant primary schools in number from 200 schools to approx. 80 schools, leaving over a quarter of the counties, many of them large in area, not served by a Protestant National School. With great frankness, the Minister was told that the current situation was already fermenting anger.

The Minister was then asked to allay the fears and deep concerns of Protestant people, to affirm the rights of minority children to attend a school within a reasonable distance, which reflects their ethos, as these schools provide parental choice and diversity in Irish education. Also, given the low density population of Protestants in rural Ireland, he was asked to determine viability by geographical location, distribution and necessity and to give island status to isolated schools.

At the conclusion, Minister Quinn was thanked for meeting with the delegation and he responded by saying that he hoped this was the first of a series of meetings which would address the educational concerns of the Protestant people in Ireland.

Norman Henry Bruckless Co. Donegal

The meaning of the Cross

Regarding The Revd Dr Alan McCann’s letter (Gazette, 25th April) in response to Stephen Neill’s article on ‘The Cross beyond Good Friday’ (18th April), I would defend the process of espousing novel interpretations. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing repeatedly and expect a different result. Most people don’t think of themselves as sinners, so giving the message of sins being forgiven by the Cross, although it is wonderful, doesn’t resonate with them.

We need to establish a connection between people and God through Christ. That isn’t done just through words, but by action, such as considering things from different angles to give fresh perspectives and ensuring that everything we do points to what we should be about.

I say ‘should be about’ because a lot of what we do, I’m afraid, does not honour the first and greatest commandment – to love God with all our heart and all our strength and all our mind.

We put all sorts of things above that commandment and, as a result, it could be true to say that we do not know what we worship (as Christ said to the Samaritan woman). Many clergy have even lost faith in recent times.

Recently, I heard Jeremiah 18, which reveals that, when there is something wrong with us, we should thank God that he doesn’t throw us on the scrap heap but, as with a blemished pot on the potter’s wheel, rather than the pot being thrown out, the potter removes the blemish from the clay, water is added, the pot squashed back into a ball and a new pot made with the same material.

Christ demonstrated his divinity in this way when he spat on the ground (John 9: 6f) and put moist clay on a blind man’s eyes, but sight was not restored without action on the man’s part (washing in the river).

The message is clear: the gifts Christ gives us require action on our part – which is to believe in and trust in him and to be obedient to him. Trusting in Christ, we are in safe hands exploring new perspectives. Truth is eternal, so that which is truth will remain in the clay of the pot that emerges from God’s wheel.

I think this process is wonderful, not sad at all, and I look forward with joy to seeing an effective, functioning Church in our time, to God’s and our benefit.

Jonathan Pyle

Birr, Co. Offaly

Love of God and Neighbour

Along with Jonathan Pyle (letter, Gazette, 18th April), I absolutely agree about the necessity of loving our neighbours if we are to be true followers of Christ.

However, this is to be in the context of the first and greatest commandment, which is to love God. We cannot set these two commandments in opposition, for they are inseparable and can only be interpreted in the light of each other.

Loving God, revealed to us in Christ, who called himself “the way, the truth and the life”, and being faithful to him, means being people of truth. This means that we do, in fact, have a responsibility not only to be truthful ourselves, in all aspects of our lives, but also that the Church which we Christians make up is to ensure that God’s truth, his “whole counsel” (Acts 20: 27), is proclaimed, and thus, when necessary, is to “banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word”, as the Ordinal puts it (p.534 of The Book of Common Prayer).

While we can cherish unity in diversity, ultimately, some differences between individual Christians and Churches, as well as between any human beings, are contradictory.

True Christian love is founded on the reality of God and his love and is about seeking someone’s best, so the loving thing in such situations is to share our disagreements openly, pointing out where we perceive someone’s understanding is incorrect in the light of the Good News of God in Christ.

In this act of love, we, humbly recognising our own sin and fallibility, honestly bear with one another as we journey together, encouraging each other to seek the truth, which will always lead us closer to Jesus.

This to me seems far more preferable than setting ‘doctrine’ and ‘love’ in opposition, and ignoring the fact that some opinions are mutually exclusive, and therefore, in Jesus’ eyes, wrong. If we were to do this, how then could we ever truly share the hope of Christ with this broken world?

We are called to be in, but not of, the world, and this at times means having to challenge it in the loving manner described above.

Damian Shorten Ballycannon, Croagh Rathkeale, Co. Limerick


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