the black road by Doolough

We came this way home this afternoon from Westport. A sad place, though beautiful.
As the entry in Wikipedia explains:-

‘The Doolough Tragedy is an event that took place during the Great Irish Famine in southwest County Mayo.[1]

On Friday 30 March 1849 two officials of the Westport Poor Law Union arrived in Louisburgh to inspect those people in receipt of outdoor relief to verify that they should continue to receive it.[2] For some reason the inspection did not take place and the officials went on to Delphi Lodge – a hunting lodge – 12 miles (19 km) south of Louisburgh. The people who had gathered for the inspection were thus instructed to appear at Delphi Lodge at 7am the following morning if they wished to continue receiving relief. For much of the night and day that followed therefore seemingly hundreds of destitute and starving people had to undertake what for them, given their existing state of debilitation, was an extremely fatiguing journey, in very bad weather.[2]

A letter-writer to The Mayo Constitution reported shortly afterwards that the bodies of seven people, including women and children, were subsequently discovered on the roadside between Delphi and Louisburgh overlooking the shores of Doolough lake and that nine more never reached their homes. Local folklore maintains the total number that perished because of the ordeals they had to endure was far higher.

A cross and an annual Famine Walk between Louisburgh and Doolough commemorates this event.[3] The monument in Doolough valley has an inscription from Mahatma Gandhi: “How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?”[2]DSCN1811


living with the tension

DSCN1743Over the years loads of my Christian friends have spoken of their desire to see real change in the world and communities, to dream of making it a better, fairer place. From healing divisions in Northern Ireland to campaigning about tax havens to climate change to human rights to homelessness to treating animals better to ____ there are things that push our buttons and make us want to fight against injustice and oppression. I recognise this side in myself as well, a belief that the older generations and other people just don’t get it, have failed and that it is up to me personally to ‘be the change that you want the world to be’. Maybe there is an air of arrogance that I can really change the world.

So I have been wondering a little about this quote from Hans Rookmaaker:-

‘The Christian’s task is not to change the world – wonderful as this would be if it led to better morals, better justice, better management of the world’s resources – but primarily to keep the world from decay and corruption, evil and suppression.
            The Christian lives in tension. On one hand, knowing that man is sinful, he does not expect a Utopia. He accepts the world as it is after the Fall,knowing that it is unnatural, subject to pain and death and crying out for removal of the curse. He knows that only Christ can bring renewal. On the other hand, the Christian can never merely accept this malfunctioning, this pain and suffering. He may never abandon his duty, but is called to follow Christ’s example, to relieve or fight the effects of evil. In this sense the Christian is a protester, but his is a protest in love. It takes wisdom and know when to accept the less than perfect, and when to press on for something better’

The Creative Gift, Hans Rookmaaker

Are we sometimes unrealistic in our dreams of changing the world?  Are we reluctant to accept the less than perfect?
Do we sometimes play down how deeply broken our human hearts are and think that things can be turned around if just do a, b or c?

Or  are Christians generally more guilty of not pressing on for something better?

a wicked double decker bus?

Oh world, world, world.. *sigh*

I was reading yesterday that the combined wealth of the 85 wealthiest people in the world, that is 85 ordinary men and women who will one day die like us all and who would easily fit on a double decker bus (not that they are likely to get on a double decker bus!) have the same amount of wealth as the 3,500,000,000 poorest people on planet earth.

If we wanted to put all those poor people on double decker buses it would take 41,176,471 of them, which is 41 million double decker buses.

These figures are a bit like trying to count the stars or comprehend the mysteries of the galaxy:- they are almost incomprehensible.

I was finding it hard to sleep last night so to kill the early morning hours I tried making a map marking on the 85 richest people.

What I noticed about the people on this map is that lots of them are no spring chickens (average age 74ish?). Moscow seems to have quite a few while the country with the most is unsurprisingly the USA

I was also thinking about a verse from Psalm 73:-

‘This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.’

Is there something wicked about amassing wealth?


‘Slavery is many different things. We must take care that we do not drive a wedge between people who are physically poor and deprived and so suffer, and, people who have lots of “stuff” but still do not live free lives, We cannot pit against each other sociological and physchological forms of slavery – either saying they are the same or arguing that one is deeper and hurts more than another. Whatever the slavery that binds a person, that is the one that counts. Let us characterize slavery simply as that which keeps us from being  joyous. When we locate that, we shall be close to the source of our oppression.’

Walter Brueggemann, Living toward a Vision