I have been attending meetings for worship at the Friends/Quaker Meeting House in Monkstown for the past two months. Officially I am an 'attender' as opposed to a fully fledged 'Friend'. It's like going on a date without any pressure to get married or even engaged any time soon. As I wobble between Atheism a la Richard Dawkins and Liberal Catholicism, attending Mass with my mother on a Saturday evening, the Friends meeting is generally an oasis of spirituality, common sense and practical christianity.
By the by I was not sure how my mother would take my casual references to 'attending worship on a Sunday morning with the Friends'. She has not passed comment. Even though she is 90 she misses absolutely nothing.I take her silence as tacit acceptance.
The Friends have probably an unparalleled record in the area of human rights going right back to the start - be it the famine in Ireland in 1840's- where they fed people without asking them their religion - or contributing to the foundation of the UN, OXFAM and Amnesty International. They have also been active in promoting peace and understanding on the ground in the Middle East and support a school in Ramallah, Palestine. I believe the connection with Palestine goes back over a hundred years when Lambs imported fruit from Palestine to make their famous preserves.
It should come as no surprise that a Friend originally from Monkstown Meeting and subsequently Rathfarnham and thereafter Overseas - Denis Halliday - should feature recently in the mercy voyage of the Rachel Corrie to lift and the blockade in Gaza. I agree with the UN when it says the siege is immoral, illegal and unsustainable,
Denis has a long and respected record in human rights. He served with great distinction in the UN for 34 years before resigning in 1998 over the UN Food Sanctions of Iraq. I share his views about the illegality and immorality of starving entire countries because we do not happen to agree with the people they elect to Government. Let's not mention our own current political landscape!!
At the morning Meeting yesterday in Monkstown we learned that Denis would be addressing Friends from all over the country at the Friends Meeting House in Churchtown at 7.30 pm. The meeting was open to all including members of the Jewish and Muslim communities (who took up the invitation and attended). For once I arrived early and savoured the atmosphere and charm of the Meeting House situated less than a mile away from where I grew up. Many a time I passed the House of 'mystery' as I sat on the top deck of the No 14 bus in the sixties.
The meeting opened with five minutes silence. Fantastic! A bit eerie if you haven't been to a Friends Meeting but brilliant for putting mind and body at rest. It opens us up to the spirit or the Spirit depending on your point of view.
Denis gave us a fascinating record of his trip on the Rachel Corrie and his subsequent incarceration and deportation.
Small world - I attended a very moving production of the play 'My name is Rachel Corrie' while serving as Treasurer of Amnesty two years previous.
Anyway, I have offered Michael, our Friends Monksotwn blogger any help he may need in transcribing the narrative.
It would make a terrific article for the newspapers. I intend to drop a note separately to my friends in the Amnesty activist grouping Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories.(OPT)
As usual I am taking forever to warm to my subject and come to the point- so here it is.
The solution to the Israel OPT tragic situation is not the two Two State idea which is currently proposed by friends of the Palestinians but rather a Single State - with Federal local governments - a little like Germany or Switzerland or the USA.
One's immediate reaction is to say 'mad' 'fanciful' 'impossible'.
I love the idea because it is brave, bold and simple - and perhaps mad.
But on reflection it ticks nearly all the boxes.
The following is my own take - so don't blame Denis for everything - he may or may not agree.
Physically policing two states is an almost impossible task - just look at the map and what remains of OPT after land grabs by the Israelis over the past 40 years since the 1967 war...
Commercially it makes sense - to be fair to the Israelis up to about 10 years ago - before the mad men and the hardliners in both camps gained the upper hand - the Arabs and the Israelis were prospering under the one roof.
Ethnically it makes sense - these two races are going to have to live together for the next 2,000 years and to anyone who visits us from Mars they must seem as similar as any two races on the planet.
Politically it makes sense - a little like the EU - if you have only one trading block -who are you going to bomb???
Morally it exposes the shallowness of the hardliners on both sides. When was a really good idea welcomed at birth?
Both the Israeli and the Palestinians will cry 'foul' which certainly means we are on to a good thing.
These two peoples who have so much in common have gone down a cul de sac and some one needs to turn them round 180 degrees, they both are deep in a hole and someone needs to gently prise the spade out of their hands. More digging will not suffice.
Almost certainly we will not see this sensible idea happen 100%. By promoting it we may get people to re look at the whole Rubik cube and start differently. More of the same is not an option.
As JFK said many years ago - problems made by man can be solved by man-* and my preference would be to leave God out of this equation - there is probably too much 'religion' already in that part of the world. That is not to say that religious people of good will cannot help hugely in promoting a secular state where all religions are free to practice and human rights are guaranteed to all citizens, including girls. The Friends come to this issue with clean hands.
* except perhaps the Banking crisis!
Amen - if that is not a contradiction in terms - but of course it is.....
This my first, and possibly my last, post ever
PPS Is this first ever first blog interrupted by a dog who has decided at 6.00 am it wants to 'go out'? Well maybe better in than out. Hmm. Maybe animals or at least cute ones should have human rights too?! Another post for another day.