Sunday, 11 October 2015

A candle-lit vigil for peace on the Cove
Beach in Greystones says ‘We Care’

Lining up on the Cove Beach in Greystone to say ‘We Care’ about conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and other parts of the world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015; click for larger image)

Patrick Comerford

It was a clear contest this afternoon. Who was going to win? Ireland or … Syria?

It has been a long working weekend, with part-time MTh students and readers-in-training on weekend residential courses, including lectures, tutorials, Bible studies, dissertation supervisions, and preaching at the Community Eucharist this morning.

My emotions told me I should go home and watch the Ireland v France match in the Rugby World Cup.

But my troubled mind was telling me I should go to Greystone and join the event organised by Aran McMahon, “Light a Candle for Peace,” in solidarity with victims of conflict, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

Carving out names in the sand (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

From mid-afternoon, Aran was at work on Greystones Cove Beach, below the boarded-up La Touche Hotel, cutting out words in the soft sand: “We Care” and the names of places of conflict: Syria, Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Congo, Ukraine … before filling them with bright-coloured pebbles and stones.

One name alone did not represent a country but a specific chilling incident from recent weeks. Kunduz was carved into the sand too, recalling the hospital in Afghanistan run by Médecins Sans Frontières and bombed by the US air force a week earlier.

About 80 people arrived before all the names had been cut into the sand and filled with stones and pebbles. This was Greystones, and had their not been a crucial rugby match at the same time there might have been a bigger turn-out.

As we arrived, each of us received a candle in a jar in a tealight holder or lantern, and we are asked to donate €10 each to support the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), which treats the injured on both sides of conflict.

We gathered around the message and names in the sand from about 5pm and held our candles in solidarity with victims of war worldwide, while other candles were scatted on the sand between the letters.

This beach can be windy, but as daylight began to turn to dusk the candles stayed alight while a drone hovered above taking photographs.

Aran McMahon addressing the candle-lit vigil on the Cove Beach in Greystones (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Before we dispersed, Sister Miriam of the Luisne Centre for Spirituality in Kilcoole spoke of the need for peace, and for peace to begin with each and every one of us, while Aran spoke of the need to raise public awareness of these conflicts.

It was all part of “Syrian Song,” an all-day fundraising music festival in Greystones. From early afternoon, as we headed to lunch at the Happy Pear, buskers were busy on the streets and outside the cafés and bars in ones and twos, raising funds for MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station), which is based in Malta.

MOA is dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing professional search and rescue assistance to people in distress on high sea or trapped on unsafe vessels.

MOAS has a 40-metre expedition vessel, the M.Y. Phoenix, two remote piloted aircraft, two RHIBs (rigid-hulled inflatable boats), and a highly experienced team of rescuers and paramedics. MOAS also co-ordinate rescues by locating, co-ordinating, monitoring, and assisting vessels in distress.

From 2.30, there was live music at the Hot Spot Music Club above the Beach House, and after the candle-lit peace vigil on the beach some people headed back to the Hot Spot Music Club, where “Syrian Song” continued from 6 p.m. with more live music in aid of Syrian refugees.

Musicians who helped to make this day included Scott Maher, the Meakins, Joe Doyle, Hothouse Vintage Jazz Band, the Kelly Brothers, Hot Spot Ukes, Greg Clifford, Hue Grass, Gabby Brady, Eileen and Dylan Crampton.

It was all free, but a donations were welcome – as the Hot Spot Helping Hands’ slogan says: “Get Involved, Lend A Hand, Dig Deep!”

Daylight turns to dusk at Greystones this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Before leaving the beach, I looked out at the pink hues above the sea created by the setting sun behind us. A small cruiser and a sail boat were off-shore, and gentle waves were lapping against the sand on the shoreline. It was impossible not to think of the plight of Syrian refugees seeking to reach the shores of Greek islands or refugees from North Africa being recues or drowning off the shores of Malta and Italy.

And yes … I did get home for the end of the match in time to see Ireland’s triumph against France in the Rugby World Cup.

Evening calm on the Irish Sea … and a reminder of the plight of refugees in the Mediterranean (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

1 comment:

Glen McMahon said...

A story well told.