Thursday, 17 March 2016
St Patrick's Day in Belfast
I have long had an interest in the story of Patrick, a man whom God sent to spread the gospel across Ulster and whose followers then took it across the island.
The man, his message and his ministry should be of interest to all who profess to follow Christ and indeed to everyone with an interest in the history of this island.
For some the interest will be spiritual, for some it will be historical and for some of us it will be both.
As I look at the film footage of the crowd chanting IRA slogans in Donegall Place this afternoon, many of them dressed in Celtic shirts and draped in Irish tricolours, one thought occurred to me. Patrick would have had no time for the IRA or indeed any other terrorist organisation.
As a young man he was taken from his home, along with many others, by raiders who terrorised his community and took him into slavery. He had experienced terrorism.
What we saw in the centre of Belfast today and what occurred in South Belfast last night and again today was nothing to do with Patrick. It was simply the expression of another generation of sectarian bigots who were well fuelled with alcohol. Such people have no interest in an inclusive day and simply see it as giving them licence to drag their bigotry into the heart of the city.