Saturday, July 23, 2016

Breaking the chains of hatred

The 'Thinking Anew' column in today's The Irish Times.

Michael Commane
Last Sunday, at least in Dublin, was a spectacular day. There were times when there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky.

Walking along the river Dodder I spotted two men I know, out walking with their young children. The bond that exists between those men and their children is unbreakable. They would go to the ends of the earth to protect them That's what normal parents do.

On that terrible day on Promenade de Anglais in Nice a young man lost his life in attemting to save his pregnant wife.

It really is incredible the sacrifices people make for those they love, indeed, often people do extraordinary acts of heroism for strangers. There is something in human nature that can bring out such goodness and kindness in us.

The flip side to that story is that we are also capable of terrible acts of cuelty and barbarism. What is it that makes people do terrible things?

In tomorrow's Gospel (Lk 11: 1 - 13) we see how the man asleep in bed eventually answers the call of someone knocking at his door. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened."

It is at the core of Christianity that Jesus never grows tired of forgiving us our wrong doing, never. We believe that the most depraved of people are not outside the loving mercy of God. Nor can they be excluded from being granted our forgiveness. And that certainly can be and is an extraordinary challenge. No one is beyond the pale.

At times that gap seems far too wide to bridge. But if we all make a constant and real effort at showing kindenss and genuine goodness to other people is it not possible that we can break down the chains of violence, anger and hatred?

People who are alienated, feel marginalised, left out of things, have a far greater chance of lashing out, being violent and doing harm to other people.

We are living in dangerous times. There are those who will perpetrate the most hideous of crimes. They will call down God's name in an attempt to justify what they are doing.

The man who drove that lorry on Bastille Day in Nice, we are told, was probably radicalised in a few short months. The word 'radicalised' has come to mean the process of converting a person to do the most evil of acts in the name of a thwarted and fundamentalist version of the understanding of Islam. 

No one will ever know why he got into that lorry and did what he did. His record shows that he was a violent man and a petty criminal, ideal fodder to be caught up in barbaric behaviour. 

History tells us that there are times that physical force has to be used to stop the aggressor. But long before that moment arises, if genuine love, care and goodness were shown is it not true that the aggressor might never have been  afforded the opportunity to carry out such evil deeds? Just as goodness begets goodness, evil too begets evil. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Of course there are no simple solutions but answering violence with violence seems a knee-jerk reaction. And it is usually counterproductive. Revenge never solves a problem.

Surely the love of those two fathers for their children, whom I saw walking along the river Dodder on Sunday, will most likely pay off, and in turn those children will learn to love and not hate.  

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The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.