Saturday, May 21, 2011

Religious reactions to bin Laden killing

Bin Laden was killed on May 2nd. We saw what Jessica Dovey blogged. So what did religious leaders have to say?  Here's a selection, in no particular order.

Church of England 

Initially Lambeth Palace refused to comment on the death of Bin Laden but, when asked at a press conference what he thought of the killing, The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams replied: "I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling; it doesn't look as if justice is seen to be done.

"I don't know the full details any more than anyone else. I think it's also true that different versions of events have not done a great deal to help.

"In such circumstances, when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be done." 

Note sure of the date, probably 4th May. Earlier, the archbishop of York gave a measured response to the dramatic events in Pakistan, saying people should not celebrate Bin Laden's death and that the terror chief was "evil but not Satan".

The Vatican

Vatican press chief Fr Federico Lombardi issued a statement on 2nd May. He pointed out the role Bin Laden had played in the promotion of “division and hatred between people," but continued "Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace."

A Quaker comment

"William Penn said 'A good end cannot sanctify evil means, nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it'.  Was the summary execution an evil means to bring about a good end?  An opportunity to demonstrate to the world what separates those who value life from the terrorist has been lost."

The following reactions all come from the USA, between 2nd and 9th May

New York: Fr Stephen Mimnaugh at Manhattan’s St Francis of Assisi church (Roman Catholic)

"Justice may have been served, but we Catholics never rejoice in the death of a human being."  He went on to cite the next comment from James Martin.

It’s relevant to note that Fr Stephen Mimnaugh is successor to Mychal F. Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, and the first recorded victim of the September 11, 2001 attack.  He was a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.

James Martin, an Amercan Jesuit priest

He wrote in America, a weekly Catholic magazine, that "no matter how monstrous" a person is, "as a Christian, I am asked to pray for him and, at some point, forgive him."

Brook Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Rev David Howard

The Rev David Howard shouted his approval from outside his church. A prominent sign publicising the sermon Howard planned proclaimed: "Osama bin Laden, Satan and the Final Victory of Jesus".

The Rev Howard said : "We should pray for bad people, evil people, that when we pray to God he will change their lives. But if he won’t change their lives, especially those who have a lot of power to hurt a lot of people, you pray for their end because they’re causing so much pain. You pray somehow God will take them out. The Bible is very clear that God is in control and every person in power is because God put them there.

"He can put them there, he can keep them there or he can take them out. That’s his prerogative."

Imam Hassan al-Qazwini at the Islamic Centre of America in the Detroit, one of American’s largest mosques

Imam Hassan al-Qazwini told worshippers. : "There is no doubt that this man was a thug, he was a murderer," Imam Hassan al-Qazwini told worshippers. "His hands were stained by the blood of thousands of innocent people — Muslims and non-Muslims alike."   Delivering his sermon in a hall filled to capacity, he said the Koran is clear that someone who kills one innocent person "is doomed to hell forever." And he was incensed that bin Laden "committed atrocities against innocent people ... while he was calling ‘Allahu akbar’, or ‘God is great’."

Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago, Pastor Charles Lyons 

Pastor Lyons told his congregation that sometimes "evil must be stopped."

"We do not rejoice in the death of the man named Osama bin Laden (but)... truth provides a platform for justice."

Church member Angelia Parker said bin Laden’s death should have been a time for contemplation, not cheering in the streets. "I think that was kind of weird," she said. "It was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We are celebrating this person’s death? We didn’t celebrate in the streets when Saddam Hussein was killed."

The Rev Bill Kelly, priest at Saint Mary of the Assumption in Dedham, near Boston (not sure of denomination, Roman Catholic at a guess)

The Rev Kelly said he was taken aback because he detected bloodlust. But he added that the emotional reaction is understandable.

Congregation Neve Shalom, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Metuchen, New Jersey, Rabbi Gerald Zelizer

Rabbi Zelizer said that according to the Talmud, if someone is trying to kill you, "you are obligated - not permitted - to kill that person before he kills you."

"But that obligation does not carry with it at all the privilege of rejoicing."

As services ended, a heated debate over how to respond broke out. Kathryn Zahler said that taking delight in anyone’s death feels un-Jewish. But Mindy Epstein disagreed. "I don’t care if that makes me a non-Jew or not," she said. "Put it on pay-for-view for the (September 11) victims."

Church of England : The Guardian 5th May
Vatican :  Catholic News Service
Quaker comment from The Friend website
USA reactions:  Irish Examiner 10th May 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The woodland garden in May

I wish I could show you a before and after picture. Before would show a scene of destruction, my woodland garden cluttered with a straggling heap of sawn off branches and leaves. Today it's not nearly as bad as it was the day before yesterday and by tonight it'll be almost back to normal. Actually better than normal because I've had two large limbs lopped off an old apple tree, and this has let a lot of light in, and will allow my hedge to flourish unhindered. It’s not the first time I've found myself wishing, near the completion of big task, that I could show a picture of how daunting it appeared at the start.

But that’s the very reason I didn’t take the photo. Because I was too daunted.

So here are some pictures I took on the 4th of this month before the tree lopping took place. And yes I know I chose the very worst month to be lopping limbs off trees but when a neighbour shows up with a chainsaw, you just need to seize the opportunity.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland

The visit of Queen Elizabeth (tomorrow) “has Ireland in a frenzy” according to yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday (that’s the Irish edition of the London paper of that name). I'm not sure that’s true. It’s a topic of conversation right enough and the most common sentiment I've heard expressed is “I just hope nothing happens and she gets back all right”.  The visit cropped up in the sauna at the swimming pool in Fermoy today. A man recalled the day in 1979 that Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin, was killed by an IRA bomb on his boat on a lake in Ireland. He said he was in a pub in Cork that day and the prevailing mood was disgust and anger at the deed; but the British press misrepresented the mood in Ireland to be one of rejoicing. (What the truth behind that is I don’t know, that’s just what be said.)

I've seen the visit described as the biggest security operation in the history of the State. The Irish Government is allowing 120 armed British police officers to patrol the streets of Irish cities to protect the Queen during the visit. Oddly, this hasn’t provoked as much hostile reaction as I expected when I first heard the news (which was yesterday).  There'll be no walkabouts in fact it's been said she'll be driving through empty streets, so strict is the security.

A few weeks ago there was a lively exchange of readers letters in the Irish Examiner on the topic of the Queen’s visit. Here are three of them, just a small sample to give a flavour of it.  (The paper used to be called the Cork Examiner and judging from the letters page it still has a largely Cork readership.)

(1) From James O’Leary, Bantry, Co Cork, Thursday, April 14

It’s hard to forget British sins of the past

Is there anyone out there who feels like me? All the PC brigade will frown, but this upcoming royal visit sticks in my craw. I’ve heard all the "build a bridge and get over it" comments and how friendly and different things are now and history should be left in the past, but I still cannot swallow it.

Am I to celebrate the arrival in my country the very epitome of a regime that has persecuted, maimed, murdered and destroyed so many of my countrymen? Am I to stand and wave my Union Jack like an obedient little colonist of yesteryear eager to catch a glimpse of an aging monarch? I feel I would be betraying not only the ghosts of generations before me but of a still living generation who have experienced the special treatment of crown forces. They were batoned at Burntollet for having the cheek to demand one man one vote. They were shot dead in Derry marching for civil rights. They were maimed and killed by rubber bullets. They were let starve to death rather than given their rights. I could go on and on but I am supposed to forget all these things because its all behind us now. I might be able to forget it if it weren’t for a line from Donegal to Louth which divides my land. This division of my country is upheld by forces who pledge loyalty to this visitor.

I think Yeats’ lines are more apt today then they were pre-1916 "Romantic Ireland is dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave."

(2) From Raymond White, Ballinspittle, Kinsale, Co Cork, Thursday, April 28

They gave us a lot, so let’s welcome the queen (this one cries out for the title "what the British did for us")

Barack Obama’s and Queen Elizabeth’s visits are a badly-needed boost for financially ailing Ireland and should be welcomed by all.

The queen’s visit is much longer and a blessing. Britain is our nearest neighbour and our biggest trading partner, and with the huge Irish-English population living a few miles from us, they are our best tourist visitors.

We should extend a "céad míle fáilte" to them and anyone else who wants to visit our Island. Remember, they built our universities, churches (ie Maynooth 1795), they constructed our lighthouses, our houses of parliament, bridges and viaducts. They built the big houses, which are tourist attractions today, the Grand and Royal Canals and our railway stations.

Under their supervision, railway tracks were built from most main cities to towns and villages throughout the country only for us to rip them up and sell off everything for scrap.

Our lifeboats are still controlled from Britain, they gave us St Patrick to convert us, and the English flag carries his cross.

Our prized Book of Kells was printed in Lindisfarne in northeast England and was brought over to Kells for safe keeping as the Viking attacks were sweeping westward. They built our main army barracks and firing ranges, which are still in use today but sadly falling into decay.

When our main ports — ie Lough Swilly, Beare Island and Spike island — were handed back to us in 1938, they were fully equipped. Yet, once again, everything was ripped apart, large guns scrapped and sold off, and generators and other equipment went in all directions.

Now we are trying to fix up those sites — that is what is left over — and open them up as tourist attractions.

The British took our cattle and produce during the First and Second World Wars and, yes we know that bad deeds were carried out on all sides, but I know for sure that we got the best of the colonial powers. Would we be better off under the Belgians, Dutch, Portuguese, Germans, or Spanish who slaughtered everyone during their conquest?

If the royals from those countries came here, would there be a protest? Let’s get on with life and promote our country.

(3) From Cormac Cahill, Maryborough Woods, Douglas, Cork, Monday, May 2

The harsh reality of life under British rule

Raymond White (April 28) thanks the English for all they gave us, or rather had us build for them, and says we should be grateful that we didn’t have worse overlords like the Spanish, who perhaps may have slaughtered us.

We did not get to chose our colonial masters and if we had I am sure we would have chosen none, thank you.

Yet, Ireland suffered multiple famines, numerous bouts of ethnic cleansing and forced expatriation through our history with England.

There is a school of thought out there that says we should forget this and move on.

There is another school of thought says no, especially as the British flag flies over six of our counties.

Wherever one stands on the issue of history, the revisionist phenomenon as displayed by Mr White of thinking of our time under our colonial masters as an enlightened walk in the park where we were shown how to behave properly is delusional.

Such thinking merely feeds into a latent nationalism in many Irish people, and would have me rather join with the protesters than the growing brigades of fawning sleveens.

Another string of letters explored the anti-royalist theme: an hereditary monarch is illegitimate and has no place in a republic ... yes but she's been chosen as head of state by the British people ... oh yeah when was that then.

Finally, the Sinn Fein line is that the royal visit is “premature”.