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Hospitality and the New Northern Ireland

June 17, 2009

ways2welcomeLast Thursday night at All Soul’s Church on Elmwood Avenue was a fascinating night. It was the 2nd AKT Event, hosted by Emma Cowan of Corrymeela and focused on the topic of Welcome and in partnership with Jayme Reaves we hosted a table on the theology of welcome. I remember saying to David Stevens that there wouldn’t be a more diverse group meeting in Belfast this night or any night in the near future.

One of the tables featured migrant workers telling their stories of being strangers in a strange land.

In many ways I’m glad it wasn’t this week, when the myth of the cead mile failte Ireland took another battering at the hands of racist thugs.

I agree, it’s too simplistic a thing to say that this is loyalist sectarianism transferring to fascistic racism. It was good to hear Frankie Gallagher of the UPRG speaking up and condemning it unreservedly. But I think we must also be honest and face up to an element within loyalism which is self-destructive and ugly. Face up to the fact that, as in many places the world over, the foot soldiers that supported the the erstwhile colonial power are doomed.

Sometimes I wonder whether there is anything redeemable in loyalism.

All that said, in the midst of what has been a shameful episode, I noted in the Radio Ulster news this morning two pieces which featured faith groups responding creatively to need among the most vulnerable.

One was, I’m not ashamed to say, our own East Belfast Mission. Jackie Millar and  Mark Houston spoke up eloquently on our work with those who find themselves unemployed. The other was City Church in their ready willingness to provide shelter for those who had been intimidated from their homes. They also featured on the RTE Radio Morning Ireland programme. Honourable mention also to Fitzroy Presbyterian, round the corner from City Church who were mentioned by the Lord Mayor.

Numbers 15:15

The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD

for more local comment check out Alan and VM as well as Slugger.

From → Current Affairs, news

  1. Love the quote from numbers – God was well prepared for the eventuality that newcomers and visitors might be treated less well!

  2. and it was sadly necessary to tell them, Alan. Seems like suspicion of the outsider is not confined to Belfast

  3. Katec permalink

    This incident occured in Northern Ireland which I believe is part of the UK so why should it damage the reputation for the Republic. I also believe that these attacks were not carried out for economical reasons but of pure hatred that still seems to be very a common occurance in the North.

  4. katec, technically you are right, NI is part of the UK, and I’m treating it as such. But I’m not sure that people less in tune with our national complexities always make the same distinction. This is a story from Ireland, and therefore the whole island suffers.

    Furthermore, the reputation of Irish emigrants is not pure. There are plenty of examples from the US, for instance, that once the early Irish emigrants found a step on the ladder their treatment of those below them was shameful. We do have a reputation for racism.

  5. Mr. Jordan,

    I randomly stumbled across your blog a while ago, but had lost track of it. Then I heard your name again a few months ago when I was sitting in a house in Atlanta. Two friends and colleagues of yours were talking about East Belfast Mission and Skainos. God works in wonderful and mysterious ways.

    I’m currently finishing up seminary at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Originally I’m from South Dakota, but I married a great gal from Cookstown, NI.
    This fall we will be in Belfast and I will be volunteering/interning at EBM. I look forward to getting to know you, Mark, Gary, and many other folks.

    As to your post, I’m really delighted to hear that some local faith communities are taking an active role in seeking to welcome the strangers in their midst. It was very sad to read about the recent plight of the Romanians. I’m interning in DC right now at a place called Faith in Public Life. One of our primary issues right now is immigration. As an organization we help other faith-based groups more effectively strategize and collaborate on issues of justice and the common good. We’re also working to elevate the role of “faith in public life.”

  6. hey karl, your name is regularly mentioned in dispatches here and I look forward to meeting you guys when you’re over.

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