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Jewish World Review / July 28, 1998 / 5 Menachem-Av, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas Murder near and far

PORTADOWN, Northern Ireland -- "I propose to speak of murder," said the young pastor at a Protestant church. Many must have immediately thought of the firebombing earlier this month in which three Catholic boys were killed. As an American, I also thought about the senseless murder of two Capitol police officers in my native Washington, D.C., by a man who believed his government was spying on him and who is said to be mentally ill. In Northern Ireland, hatred born not of genuine religious faith, but of religion used fraudulently as a political weapon, produces equally senseless acts. Here the problem is spiritual illness.

As a child growing up in the Washington area, I recall walking freely on the Capitol grounds and having easy access to the buildings. Then, a metal detector was a device you took to the beach to search for lost change. In Northern Ireland, no one recalls a time when people who claimed to be Catholic and others who claimed to be Protestant were not warring with one another. Today, the number is exceedingly small, but it has been enough to keep the fires of hatred kindled. Those who would divide to conquer, and prefer hate to reconciliation, have just enough fuel to keep the fires going.

That something genuinely good might emerge from the deaths of the three boys is considered a possibility by people who have learned not to trust in peace "settlements" or pronouncements from government. Several chaplains for the Protestant Orange Order have resigned in disgust over the bombings. This is the fraternal group that preaches "faith and unity," but it is their brand of faith and their unity. Most have refused any face-to-face talks with any Catholic political leader.

Now comes potentially good news. Robert Saulters, who leads the Orange Order, says he wants to speak to leaders of the nationalist movement. Part of this may be pragmatic, given the terrible public image the Order assumed after the bombing. But that and the subsequent violence between British troops and Orange Order members marching through the Catholic village of Drumcree in commemoration of a 300-year-old Protestant victory over Catholics may have finally reached the souls of the hardest of the hard-liners. A meeting is scheduled for this Saturday at which Saulters is expected to tell his members they should vote to overturn last year's decision barring local lodges from entering talks with Irish nationalists. The Orange lodge in Portadown, the order's largest, is said to be opposed to the policy change, mostly because they believe the local groups are merely fronts for the terrorist organization Sinn Fein.

The Church of Ireland is also reconsidering its role in making available its Drumcree church and grounds during the annual "marching season." Archdeacon Alan Harper, chairman of the church's anti-sectarianism committee, says he hopes the church will approve a change in rules when its synod meets next May. Harper adds: "I think there may also be a proposal which I would expect to be passed requesting that the rector and select vestry of Drumcree withdraw its invitation to the Orange Order to attend its church service on the Sunday before July 12."

A drive down Garvaghy Road toward Drumcree illustrates the divisions. On the side of the road where Protestants live, Britain's Union Jack flies on every telephone pole. On the other side, where Catholics reside, the Irish flag is on an equal number of poles. British troops patrol the area to keep the sides apart. What can bring them together?

The isolation of extremists improves the chances that more people might seriously consider the words of the Portadown pastor who urged his congregation to "love your neighbor" and reminded them that "a critical spirit is at the heart of murder."

A spiritual illness leads to murder in Northern Ireland. A mental illness leads to murder in Washington. Having sown the wind of indifference about the meaningful things of life, we are reaping its meaningless harvest.


7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.