11 April 2008
Statement by Bishop Donal Murray, Bishop of Limerick on violence in the community
“We should pray especially for young people who are being drawn into violence and crime, that they may understand their own dignity as human beings” – Bishop Murray
Once again our city has seen savage murders and neighbourhoods have experienced grief, fear and intimidation.
This is the tragic fruit of greed, hatred and the desire for revenge. Can those who engage in such evil actions not see what is so obvious to everyone else – the utter futility of brutal behaviour which disregards the value of human life, which brings tragedy and sorrow to the families of their victims, and which shrivels their own humanity?
Violence breeds only violence. The words of Jesus to those who sought to protect him by force are an appeal that applies with great force in Limerick today: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Mt.26: 52)
It is tragically clear that these self-destructive attitudes are being communicated to a new generation. We already see their young lives being destroyed. People in their communities, and even in their own families, who should be giving them a sense of hope and an appreciation of their own potential, are instead leading them into a futile life of drug dealing, violence and murder. To lead impressionable children to look at murder and stabbing as something to be taken for granted, even to be admired, is a horrible betrayal. The most likely outcome for them is that they will spend the best years of their lives in jail or that they themselves will perish by violence at an early age. In spite of the pressures that surround them, I hope that young people may have the strength and wisdom to recognise the deceptive and cruel reality behind the invitations to take part in this absurd cycle of violence and death.
Sometimes people express the fear that violence may spill over in a way that affects everybody in Limerick. We should ask ourselves honestly whether that fear does not reveal a deeper problem. The huge majority of people and of families in the areas where the violence is centred are decent, law abiding people who have a pride in their own area but who have seen it blighted by the actions of the few. Violence has already “spilled over” in a way that subjects good and peaceful members of our community to heartbreak, fear and intimidation, to the destruction of the reputation of their neighbourhood, and to an environment marked by burnt out houses and burnt out cars and burnt out hopes.
We have been shocked by the violence of recent days. But it is important that we should recognise the dedicated work of many people, without which the situation would be far worse. I think of the priests and religious who for many decades have lived and worked in the areas most affected. I think of the teachers; of social workers, of the emergency services. And I think of the courage and professionalism of the Gardaí in defending the rule of law. All of these have worked with great commitment to try to foster a more stable and peaceful community. It is all too obvious that more needs to be done, but it would be very wrong to fail to appreciate those who have actually been doing something worthwhile.
We are moving towards the implementation of the Regeneration Project which offers new hope to the areas which have suffered so much. It is the duty of every person in Limerick to do all that he or she can to ensure that this project is successful. The process will need to be comprehensive and “joined up”. It will have to involve housing, policing, education, social provisions, community development, family support and many other dimensions.
But we must not forget the serious obligation that falls on every single citizen of Limerick and the surrounding areas. It is vital that the wider community not only understands fully but also gives practical expression to the fact that the people of the areas on which the regeneration will focus are members of our community. That is not just a question of words. If they do not feel – and if they have not had much reason to feel until now – that we regard and respond to their suffering as we would if it were our own, if they do not feel that we care about the wellbeing of their neighbourhoods as we do about our own, then we are failing to play our part in the regeneration of the city and its suburbs. We who profess to be followers of Jesus are committed to loving our neighbour as ourselves. Indeed we are committed to loving them as he has loved us.
In our prayer for Limerick at this tense and tragic time, it is important to remember how much of the suffering is borne by people who have played no part in crime and violence. Those who suffer because of this violence are our brothers and sisters.
We need to ask the Lord to open our hearts to see the face of Jesus in each of them and to respond to them as we would to him. They are members of our community not just in a sociological sense; they are members of the people that Jesus is drawing to himself; they are brothers and sisters with whom we hope to share in the new life which the Risen Jesus entered at the first Easter.
We should pray especially for young people who are being drawn into the violence and crime, that they may understand their own dignity as human beings. Like all of us, they can recognise their own dignity only if they acknowledge and respect the dignity of every member of the human family. One of the most crucial elements in the process of regeneration will be to see how these young people can be rescued from the destructive attitudes into which they have been led. This is a challenge that must be met at so many levels: family support; education; recreational facilities. It will also require that the wider community of Limerick is prepared to offer the young people of these areas hope and prospects that will offer them a way out of the rejection and disregard which they too often experience.
We need to pray also for those who are engaged in horrific acts; they too are brothers and sisters for whom Jesus gave his life, but they have lost sight of something that is basic to their own humanity. To kill another human being in cold blood and to regard that deed as something acceptable is a denial of the dignity not just of the victim but of the perpetrator.
In the Easter Season we celebrate the triumph of God’s love over the injustice, cruelty and violence of Calvary. At the central moment of human history, at the moment when God most clearly revealed himself, we saw the powerful love, the love which made the universe. That love was shown not in strength and force but in a love that suffered violence but which proved stronger than the worst that evil can do.
That love is at work in our world. The Easter season calls us to believe that, and to live it. That love triumphed in new life, in regeneration. May the Risen Lord who suffered so cruelly be with those who suffer; and may his victory inspire us and give us courage to work for the overcoming of the injustice and cruelty that has scarred so many lives.
Bishop of Limerick
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)