During the most peaceful part of Northern Ireland’s history and after all the ceasefire talks and endeavors to bring the violence to an end there is still a faction which has never given up their rights as Irish citizens to make an annual mass parade of the prevailing order. I wonder at times like these if there will ever be a settlement where religious wars are concerned. In addition to being a travesty it is so disappointing to see that people who have such passion for their religion don’t come to some respect for all people who hold to something as commendable as loyalty to a religious order. Apathy is more rampant than it ever was and it is not an answer in such violent times.
What is the Twelfth Parade, you ask ? With the possibility of being too brief, I will say that it commemorates the date of July 12, 1620 in which the Battle of the Boyne- a victory by William of Orange (Protestant King of England at that time) prevailed over the Irish forces who remained loyal to James II, the Catholic King he replaced. This battle occurred just south of Belfast, the capital of North Ireland. Most of Ireland is free of British rule and I can tell you that Catholicism prevails in most of Ireland today because of St Patrick, who set about placing mostly native Catholic priests in precincts throughout the island personally. This is the same St Patrick who was, in actuality, a native Welshman, kidnapped by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland into a life of being an enslaved sheepherder at a very young age. This all happened before he escaped to France and found his religious fervor amongst the Catholic priesthood of northern France. If ever a saint learned to forgive, St Patrick is one who heads the list.
What happens each July 12th throughout Northern Ireland are mass Orange Order marches which often ignite a response of fury from the Catholics since they insist on hundreds of parades who walk right through catholic districts. It is intended as a divisive measure and not one of keeping the peace. If an Englishman showed up in Washington, D.C. with an English flag and waved it while saying, “This land still belongs to the Crown”, it couldn’t be less obnoxious. However, this is what is allowed to happen every year in North Ireland. The difference is that Britain does continue to occupy and rule. I don’t suppose this would continue if occupation of Ireland entirely ceased and the government was returned wholly to the Irish people. Irish protestants won’t have it, of course. Most of Ireland is free of British rule and has been since 1921. The Orange Order is much older having been founded circa 1795 with only the intent of expelling Catholicism. The current chaplain of the order, a Reverend Mervyn Gibson has been asked to cease violent behavior and incitation of clashes with Catholics and his response is simply “no.” He is keeping up the tradition of national pride, in general, of a people who like nothing more than a good fight.
There is an inherent hopelessness in this which is startlingly childish and incoherent. It is also solvable. As a Christian who has learned to deal with anger by leaning on the arms of Jesus I know it’s something that needs to be dealt with. We owe it to each other to learn to respect all religions whether we agree with the precepts or not. It leads the way to mutual respect and the lovely human penchant of curiosity when it comes to human activity. If we can play together then we can pray together. Peace ?