dividing walls

Do you remember that time Ian Paisley rocked up to the European Parliament to heckle the Pope? Maybe you’re too young so here is the Youtube clip

I would have been 10 yrs old at the time and this is my earliest memory of the European Union.

Growing up in rural Ulster I can’t think of any time that I met someone from another European country. There might have been families involved with the British Army so a few English accents around but  no French, German, Spanish that I remember.

Countries like Poland or Romania were still Communist so there where certainly no eastern European accents.

It was just the United Kingdom that mattered really,  identity was defined by people hanging out the Union Jack around the 12th, things such as visits from members of the British Royal family, TV from the BBC, history that focused on British aspects more than Irish. I remember going to Donegal and Rosnowlagh as a kid so I did go over the border for a trip or two but I wasn’t exposed to anyone from another culture than my own for most of my childhood.

(When I say culture I don’t even mean people in my area because if they happened to be Roman Catholic we had no dealings with them either….)

It was sheltered.
Not necessarily out of choice because these where the days before Ryanair  and budget airlines and cheap flights to places all over Europe.
It was the days before we all had these computers linked together with the internet.
If you’re from Northern Ireland it was the days of border checkpoints and British Army watchtowers, Chinook helicopters letting the Parachute Regiment out in fields around Tyrone,terrorist attacks, bombs under cars.

Now look at us!

Although there are hard line Republicans out there who still want to cause mayhem it’s not a nightly occurrence to read about some death and families grieving after another bomb goes off.

And sure isn’t that great?
You can drive over the border without members of the British security forces checking under your wheel arch. You don’t see or hear the Puma, Chinook, Gazelle, Wessex flying around.
There are two different countries but it’s like we’re friends who trust each other a bit more.

I know there are lots of reasons for the Good Friday agreement but I think a part of it had to do with us realising there was more to the world than us thanks to globalisation. I don’t know what I mean by globalisation except a sense that the world has become smaller and more interconnected which means there is more to the world than being Unionist or Republican.
People could afford to go on holidays to other parts of Europe instead of the caravan up in Portrush. Maybe we started seeing workmates from Poland or Portugal. The internet means we can see Youtube clips from all over the world. All the TV channels have now!

So that is one of the reasons I am upset about the EU Referendum and people who want to leave.  I think that it’ll put barriers up between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when we’ve had enough of that already. Our island has been divided by so much over the centuries that to harden a border at a stage when we’ve been getting on so well isn’t a good idea.

Of course the EU is far from perfect. Far far from perfect.

But the people leading the charge for leave the EU don’t seem to me to be perfect. Did people not notice the cruelty of some of those Tory leaders the last few years?

The scary thought though is that people actually did see the cruelty of some of those leaders and think that they’re right.

I find nearly every reason given for those wanting to remain to jar with thinks I think about life (though fail to live up to)
Almost all of it seems to be driven by a selfish desire to make Britain First (a bit like Donald Trump wanting to make America Great Again). They want to be able to make their own trade deals with other countries free from interference from Europe and do what’s  right by the British people.

I get why a non-Christian would want to do that, but as a Christian I don’t see how I am supposed to favour any nation above another. Complicated though it is to get my head around I should be just as concerned about the welfare of people in Hungary, Greece, Austria than the people in my own country. Because my primary citizenship is as a member of the Kingdom of God.

As member of the Kingdom of God I have been charged with being a peacemaker  ‘and if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ as the Bible says

How many times have I prayed for things to be on earth as they are in heaven?
I heaven I can’t see how there will be any borders, fences, checkpoints, dividing walls between people. I know this is a fallen, broken world and things are far from ideal.

But if there is a democratic choice between building up a border and keep it relatively open what should a Christian do?

A couple of years ago my neighbour built up this wall between his garden and ours so that I couldn’t see into his garden.

He didn’t ask for permission, he waited until he was on holidays and then his builders came into our garden, stood on my vegetable patch and made a sort of Berlin Wall between us.

I was so mad at the time because it seemed to me that he was ruling out any sort of relationship with me.
It seemed like he wanted to live in his little kingdom without interference from people he didn’t think he should have to have a relationship with. It was as if I was below him, that he was OK without having me in his life.Of course he didn’t have to ask for permission or say what he was planning to do because he was within his rights to build it.

His wall changed our relationship and now I avoid gardening when they are out in case I lash out at him. I should forgive and move on over such a small matter…but it’s symbolic to me of something deeper. It seems nobody wants to be a good neighbour anymore, we’re all too busy looking after our own patch.

And in my view the world is a more poorer, angrier place because of the walls we build.



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