Belfast Telegraph - - CHURCHES -

TO­MOR­ROW is Ar­mistice Day and Re­mem­brance Sun­day, when we cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties on the Western Front to mark the end of the First World War. To­mor­row, we also re­mem­ber all who have died in the North­ern Ire­land Trou­bles — po­lice and Army, in­no­cent civil­ians and many killed by the para­mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions.

We must al­ways re­mind our­selves that there was no moral, eth­i­cal, the­o­log­i­cal or doc­tri­nal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for para­mil­i­tary vi­o­lence. In­deed, through­out the re­cent Trou­bles, the Chris­tian churches here took a clear stand against the vi­o­lence of the paramil­i­taries.

Since the Belfast Agree­ment in 1998, the para­mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions have com­mit­ted them­selves to the pol­i­tics of democ­racy. How­ever, there is presently a sub­stan­tial po­lit­i­cal deficit within North­ern Ire­land it­self. This can only be cor­rected if ef­fec­tive pol­i­tics is re­stored to Stor­mont, or if the depart­ments of state can be mo­bilised to serve the com­mu­nity.

Brexit fur­ther com­pli­cates the lo­cal po­lit­i­cal sce­nario, but it is the job of our politi­cians to find a way for­ward. Com­pro­mise is re­quired if the present Brexit im­passe is to be over­come. Com­pro­mise is es­sen­tial in many as­pects of life. Why should pol­i­tics be the ex­cep­tion?

In North­ern Ire­land, we have gone through the re­cent Trou­bles. Many in­no­cent peo­ple have been mur­dered and countless oth­ers in­jured — maimed in body and mind for life.

For many years, in my wak­ing and sleep­ing hours, I have had a vi­sion of the peo­ple in­jured in the Trou­bles, mov­ing slowly in long pro­ces­sion past Belfast City Hall — some on crutches, oth­ers in ban­dages, in wheel­chairs pushed by rel­a­tives and friends, oth­ers wheeled in their beds. The pro­ces­sion of the bro­ken. Some­one said they num­ber 40,000.

Yes, we re­mem­ber the mur­dered and bro­ken. But we must ask, “What would they want us to do now?” The an­swer is given in the mem­o­rable words of the dy­ing Al­lied sol­dier on the Western Front in 1916: “When you go home, tell them of us, and say, for your to­mor­row we gave our to­day.”

To­day, we are grate­ful for the sac­ri­fices made for us so that we may en­joy the demo­cratic free­doms of peace, jus­tice, as­so­ci­a­tion, move­ment, speech, re­li­gion and assem­bly.

To­mor­row is Re­mem­brance Sun­day. May we al­ways re­mem­ber the im­mense sac­ri­fices to se­cure our free­dom. And may you and I never for­get.

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