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Archbishop expresses concern over religious and secular fundamentalism

By Sarah Mac Donald - 15 October, 2013

Housing policies contribute to the formation of immigrant ghettos Archbishop of Dublin suggests.

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Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has revealed he fears religious fundamentalism and indoctrination as well as a State which feels that a pluralist society must be monochrome and neutral and cannot be built around a plurality of visions.
 
In an address in London, the leader of the Church in Dublin highlighted another form of fundamentalism, that of the relative and the neutral, which can lead to arrogance and an intolerance of those with deep-felt convictions.  
 
“Our society, which calls itself pluralist, can appear very intolerant to people of faith who have strong convictions. Fundamentalism is not just religious. Reductionism of the significance of religion in society can often lead to new forms of secularist dogmatism.”
 
In a speech given at the Contending Modernities conference on Monday evening at the University of Notre Dame’s London Centre, the Archbishop said he believed denominational education has a place within a pluralist society.
 
The interdisciplinary two-day conference addressed the issue, ‘The New Cosmopolitanism: Global Migration and the Building of a Common Life.’
 
He underlined that his reflections were personal rather than scientific and that he could not propose specific answers to many of the questions which the challenge of migration poses to the world “which likes to call itself globalised but which so often is otherwise.”
 
He said many of his comments reflected the Irish situation in which the challenges of immigration and a more diverse society were at a very different stage to that of Great Britain.
 
Referring to the brain-drain in Ireland, he noted that a recent year-long study of Irish emigration found clear evidence that, with emigration levels now four times as high as they were just seven years ago, a disproportionate number of highly educated young people are leaving Ireland. 
 
“In fact, 62% of recent young emigrants have a tertiary qualification of three years or more. The brain-drain is not limited to developing countries,” he commented.   
 
He warned of the danger of allowing immigrant ghettos emerge where large numbers of migrants live in enclaves with little contact beyond their own culture.
 
In his speech, the Archbishop blamed local authorities’ housing policies for contributing to the formation of ghettos. He also warned that neither multiculturalism nor integration would be achieved if people live in closed communities, especially if these communities are marked by frustration and a sense of marginalisation.
 
Referring to the Irish context, the Catholic Primate said Ireland had witnessed “a unique wave of immigration into a country where immigration had very little tradition.”
 
In the diocese of Dublin, there are now over 70,000 Catholic Polish immigrants in a country where traditionally there were just 300 Polish citizens. There are also large communities of Lithuanians, Romanians, Nigerians and many others.
 
The question of the provision of religious education for a more diverse population was “vital for Ireland of the future,” he commented.
 
He was critical of those who sought to present the historical role of the Catholic Church in education as an example of Catholic dominance when it was in fact “an unintended fruit of history”.
 
Dr Martin also defended the right of the country’s protestant communities to have their own independent protestant schools.  
 
Though almost 90 percent of the primary schools in the Dublin area were under Catholic patronage, the Archbishop described them as institutionally Catholic but said that with the passage of time that was becoming demographically less so.
 
He questioned whether the dominance of a religious ethos in schools which are publicly financed was appropriate today and suggested it could leave the Church open to accusations of sectarianism.
 
On the challenges of migration, he said the Christian believer must always set out from a different concept: that of the God-given unity of the human family.  
 
“It is a concept based not on fear but on a sense of fundamental fraternity and solidarity. It is a concept on which we can build dialogue with Islam and other great religions. Just as with political society, religious leaders have to generate clarity in the use of their concepts. They have to work together to unite on a clear understanding of common concepts, such as the unity of human family which springs from the recognition of God’s sovereignty,” he said. 
 
Recalling the recent tragic events at Lampedusa, where hundreds of lives have been lost when, the Archbishop referred to Pope Francis comments on his visit to Lampedusa, when he said “so many died at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death”.
 
He noted that  Pope Francis’ visit to Lampedusa was not greeted favourably by all.  “One US media commentator expressed his horror that Pope Francis was blessing illegal immigrants.”
 
The boats from which so many lives were lost at Lampedusa were vehicles of hope which became vehicles of death, he said and added, “but they were also vehicles of trafficking and exploitation and extortion.”   
 
Reflection on international migration must be concrete in addressing its objectives. It must be attentive to see that our noble ideals do not end leaving the weak being exploited by the unscrupulous, the Archbishop warned. 

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