Welcome towards friend and stranger is at the heart of our Christian faith. Central to our faith is the belief that God lives in all human beings, no matter who they are or where they come from, and that when we reject others we reject God who lives in them. Hospitality has been part of our Christian tradition and it has been the practice of generations of Irish people to welcome everyone who came to their door and to share whatever they had with them.
Reports about a rise in racism, prejudice and religious intolerance here in Ireland, often fuelled by online, hate-filled messages, are deeply worrying. Mr Martin Kenny TD has been courageous in speaking out against racism and he has subsequently received threatening messages and has had his car burned in an arson attack. The recent horrific attack on Kevin Lunney, the arson attack on Deputy Kenny’s car and similar arson attacks on the cars of the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings and their families, are to be condemned by all right-minded people. There should be no place for such acts in a civilised society.
I also wish to take this opportunity to comment on the proposal that asylum seekers may be accommodated in Ballinamore. The direct provision system in Ireland is not fit for purpose and must be changed. This system does not allow people sufficient independence to respect their dignity as human beings. Migrants and refugees have been treated badly and communities like Ballinamore can be demonised. Leitrim people are warm, welcoming and friendly and the people of Ballinamore have been blind-sided because of the government’s failure to consult with them in advance and to listen to their views. In the past Ballinamore community has welcomed refugees and will do so again provided that there is prior consultation.
Migrants, refugees and local communities – such as Ballinamore – must be treated in a better way and all acts of violence and intimidation against people and property ultimately weakens society and demean us all. Unless the method of consulting with local communities is changed it is likely that these issues will continue to arise across Ireland in the future.
- Monsignor Liam Kelly is Administrator of the Diocese of Kilmore.
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