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Newsletter July 2008

Orangemen Parade   Understanding the Toubles

This last week we went up to Londonderry.  We walked the city walls built in the 17C. and visited the Bogside, site of Bloody Sunday, associated with the beginning of the Troubles.  Londonderry is on the border of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  For clarification the island of Ireland is divided into two countries since 1921 when the Republic of Ireland obtained its independence.  Currency and government are separate and different.  Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the UK (United Kingdom), in addition to Wales, Scotland, and England. 

In January 1972, 15,000 civil rights marchers were protesting internment without trial.  At the end of the day 13 unarmed men were shot and killed.  At the time civil rights riots were commonplace with rock and bottle throwing (some lit with petrol) against the Army’s rubber bullets, CS gas, and water

cannons.  Some of you will remember similar times in Berkeley and elsewhere.  Deborah who we brought with us is 30 years old, and doesn’t remember the closing of the mills which depressed our neighborhood, but she does remember the paramilitary activities and the Troubles.  She was afraid even today to be in the Bogside since her 8 year old may have blurted out something inappropriate.  The IRA activated in earnest as did the Loyalist paramilitary groups after Bloody Sunday.  How these Troubles came to last 30 years, have 3500 people killed, many more maimed and traumatized, and continue to divide two deeply religious groups, is tragic.  After 3 months all we can say is we understand a lot more but we don’t understand much.  To read more the best website is http://cain.ulst.ac.uk

In Belfast, the local paper continues to report on harassment between youths and by youths.  Community leaders anticipate the parade season with revised routes negotiated to avoid sectarian violence.  Letters to the editor condemn the politicians for giving in to pressure from detractors.  The big parade was “the 12th July”, a celebration that commemorates the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  July 12th is a big deal with a two day holiday.  On 11 July huge bonfires are lit around the city, all of which are weeks in the building with pallets towered up with the flag of the Republic atop most of them.  How do you keep a fire going with wet wood?  Gasoline!  The parades show off flute bands from lodges of the Orange Order.  Provocatively they play “kick the pope” tunes.  Why would anyone want to be provocative when 3500 people died from the violence during the Troubles?  No one in Northern Ireland would consider banning the parades; reroutings were met with scorn.  It is tradition to parade, 55% of the population are Protestant and see it as their right and their heritage.  There are 1200 chapters of the Orange Order in the world and there are dozens of parades all summer long in various parts of Northern Ireland.  The police and the Orange order officials try to manage by confiscating illegal alcohol, and returning the emphasis to “Orangefest” for all families.  The churches pray for a calm and peaceful parade season.

The strong values of family, community, brotherhood, friendship, faith, loyalty, celebration, and even temperance, were evident.  Before the Troubles, the parades were enjoyed by a mixed population but now it is seen as sectarian, touting the differences.  Historically the Orange Order took a stance of the highest of Protestant reformed values against the perceived ills of the church.  Today that Protestant stance appears bigoted.  Ward wrote a relevant poem posted at www.quonstothers.com/musical_tears.html.  

May our inquiry amongst our new friends give eyes to see and bring deeper commitment to love others, and to maintain the true faith and true peace.

Email: wardstothers@cten.org
New Phone: (028) 90 291986  From US 01144.2890.291986.
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