Friday, 5 December 2008

‘Prize for the most magnificent act of hypocrisy’

Patrick Comerford

It is still impossible to beat An Phoblacht, the propaganda mouthpiece for Sinn Fein and the IRA, for sheer hypocrisy and sick comment.

In an anonymously-penned article headed “Dublin 4 darlings, the poppy – and Lisbon 2,” an anonymous commentator managed to attack all his or her usual victims, and included these two paragraphs of bile:

“A deluge of newsprint and air-time has been devoted to the poppy celebrations in the last few weeks, coupled with sermons about our great shame in ignoring the fallen Irish servicemen who fought for the British Army over the decades. Prize for the most magnificent act of hypocrisy in trying to have it both ways at once must go to long-time Irish Times journalist and man of the cloth, Canon Patrick Comerford, director of spiritual formation at the Church of Ireland Theological College.

”Comerford described last week how his Dublin grandfather joined the British Army the year before the Rising and returned home just afterwards with three British Army medals for service rendered, dying shortly after from illness incurred in that service.Deploying all his theological skills, Comerford described his happiness in wearing the poppy and in the same sentence claimed to be ‘a pacifist’. It is likely that Comerford learned such theological, double-jointed dexterity in The Irish Times newsroom rather than any theological college.”

It will take many decades before I allow anyone who supports Sinn Fein and the IRA to question or challenge my pacifism, and many more decades before people who stooped to sectarian violence in advancing their irredentism should dare to question my theological credentials. While they were bombing indiscriminately, I was marching against all bombs. And all the writer had to do was to check out my blog or my Facebook page to discover that I received my theological education at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, Kimmage Manor, Maynooth and the Church of Ireland Theological College.

But then, those people were never the sort to allow facts to get in the way of a good story.

My grandfather was a real hero. I don’t need to express my disdain for those people who stooped to carnage as they hijacked the name of my country.

I am reminded of the former Greek Foreign Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, who once accused an EU colleague of trailing his coat-tails through the blood of European minorities who had been the victims of ethnic cleansing. People who do that should stay silent when the guns are silent.

An Phoblacht has long scooped up all the available prizes for the most magnificent acts of hypocrisy. When I upset people like that, I should just smile benignly.

Crisis in Central Africa

This elderly woman has fled the fighting in Masisi, eastern Congo. She found a refuge at her daughter’s home, who also accommodated a group of other displaced people from the same village. (Photo: Anna Muinonen/FCA-ACT International)

The Church of Ireland Gazette carries the following editorial comment in this week’s edition (5 December 2008):

Crisis in Central Africa

This week, we publish a report from Goma by Anna Muinonen, who is working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a programme co-ordinator with FinnChurchAid (see page 9). Readers will find her report both distressing and hopeful.

In recent weeks, a quarter of a million people have been forced from their homes in the eastern parts of the DRC, fleeing the continuing violence between the army and rebel forces. They are joining a million people already displaced in that part of the vast central African nation, and Churches and agencies now say a humanitarian disaster is looming.

The United Nations (UN) has reported that the rebels in eastern DRC are violating a ceasefire and seizing more territory. At the same time, the government in Kinshasa has rejected an offer of more peacekeeping troops. Without a commitment from both sides to resolving this conflict, the plight of these millions of people can only rapidly deteriorate.

The fighting between the rebel forces led by General Laurent Nkunda and the pro-government Mai Mai militia, in an area 50-60 miles north of Goma, is aggravating the humanitarian and security crisis in Nord-Kivu province, according to the UN. The roots of the conflict stem from the 1998-2003 civil war, which elections two years failed to resolve. And yet, the international campaign, Human Rights Watch (HRW), says the conflict may be detracting from repression and abuses in other parts of the DRC.

President Joseph Kabila’s DRC government has killed “at least 500” suspected political opponents in the past two years, according to HRW, which accuses President Kabila’s government of “brutal repression.” Last month’s report says about 1,000 people have been detained since the 2006 elections, with many of them being tortured, while government forces have deliberately killed or summarily executed hundreds of opponents, mainly in north-west and southern DRC, away from the current conflict zone.HRW is critical of foreign governments that are trying to win favour with the Kabila government and so keep silent about this increasingly repressive regime. How long can the developed world remain silent about this regime and this conflict? As our report this week reminds us: “It is impossible to preach God’s love in Jesus Christ while being silent about the effects of such a grave humanitarian catastrophe.”