By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 April, 2016
At a service of remembrance for the victims last month’s terror attacks in Brussels, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on Tuesday evening described the atrocities as “A series of acts of blind and meaningless and merciless violence.”
In his address at an interfaith service in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, the Archbishop recalled how the horror of the events of 22nd March “stunned us all”.
An ordinary day was breaking in Brussels as people were arriving and departing at an airport; an ordinary day had begun for many peacefully travelling on the metro to school and to work. “Then the unimaginable took place.”
This merciless violence took lives, injured and traumatised many and tore into the hearts of so many families and friendships, and of the proud nation of the Belgians and indeed of Europe, he said.
He told the congregation which included President Michael D. Higgins, Lord Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charles Flanagan, and members of the diplomatic corps that “Our remembrance of 22nd March must be one which remembers and shares a grief that is still raw. We do not hide our righteous anger at the extent of such inhumanity.”
The service was arranged at the request of His Excellency Philippe Roland, Ambassador of Belgium.
Archbishop Martin was joined by other Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith representatives for the service.
He said Brussels, like any large modern cosmopolitan city, has its own tensions and inequalities, but that the city had also taken on a special role of welcome and encounter and its citizens, drawing from their own European heritage, have reshaped and transformed their culture into a modern culture of welcome.
He said the Christian is still called to endurance in his or her belief, never losing hope despite the evil that exists all around them.
“Christian hope is not an empty formula or a magic answer to tempt us to hide away from the fact that evil exists,” he stated and added that we are all challenged to be agents of a new future.
“Senseless violence is the opposite of hope. It is a sign of hopelessness; it is not a sign of idealism, but a sign of a death which steals hope and tarnishes ideals.”
“No one should use the name of God to try to justify violence. Those who attempt to place a religious tag on their violence betray their religion, whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic.”
Violence in its many forms is at the root of so much of the suffering and hopelessness that marks our society, Dr Martin commented and noted that violence only generates further violence.
“The violent man may think he is strong. But in all conflicts it is, in the long run, men and women of peace and determination and who rise above prejudice and conquer.”
He said the chain of hate and the chain of evil are not unbreakable and that peace will be attained only by the peaceful, by people who respond to escalating violence with a renewed passion for peace.
Describing the attacks in Brussels as attacks on hope, the Primate of Ireland said the European vision is a vision about the embodiment of hope and unity.
“We must stand together rejecting a culture of violence. We must stand together uncompromisingly rejecting the squalid international trade in the weapons of violence.”
“We must stand together uncompromisingly protecting young people from being misled by a false idealisation of violence. We must stand together uncompromisingly rejecting any compromise of our fundamental values of welcome and unity and opportunity for all.”
Archbishop Martin concluded by saying, “This evening, as Irish or Belgian, as Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, as men or women, believers or not, aware that we all share a common humanity, we commit ourselves to fostering a culture of peace. 22nd March 2016: never again.”
In his reflection at the remembrance service, Archbishop Michael Jackson, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, said everyone’s thoughts were with the victims of the bombings and the people of Belgium whose lives changed for ever on 22 March 2016.
He said the challenge for those who are the custodians and champions of the values of European humanism is to “upend the commercial model that sees exploitation as the endgame of trade and expenditure as the crowning glory of the human person.”
Referring to the violence and cruelty and public cynicism of ISIS, the Archbishop said “those of us who are appalled and abhorred by it need a response from within the best of our inheritance.”
Today’s Brussels, he said, was a fractured society and many human beings are broken: individuals and their relatives; members of the police and security services; rapid response care workers and hospital staff.
“People who have lived alongside one another with un-ease now live alongside one another with dis-ease. This is a continuing torture for any society,” he warned.
“Fracture” he highlighted “facilitates ghettoisation ad self-selecting gated communities. All of this foments suspicion, human alienation and Drivethru neighbourhoods.”
Speaking after the service, Dr Jackson said that the “dialogue of life” was very powerful as it enabled people who might be neighbours but may not really communicate with one another to share childcare, food and “recognise the humanity in one another”.
Imam Sheik Hussein Halawa sought to assure people that the Muslim faith is a religion of peace. “It is very important for Christians Jews and Muslims to come together in peace,” he said,
Ambassador Philippe Roland of Belgium warned in his address to the church, “Our values must be crushed by force” as he noted that the symbolism of an attack on Brussels – the capital of Europe.
He said also referred to the “adverse effect of return of foreign fighters” to Belgium but pledged that those guilty of the “repugnant acts” of 22 March would be over through the rule of law.
He underlined that “Faith and belief had nothing to do with these acts.”
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Dr Nooh Al-Kaddo, CEO of Islamic Centre of Ireland, said the Muslim community in Ireland is trying to “make sure our homes are clear and clean of any hatred or extremist ideas”.
Calling for closer dialogue between communities and faith he said, “the closer we are the stronger we are and those planning to create differences between communities will be far from us.”