These figures are shocking: “According to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Centre in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the situation calls “a situation of witness” each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith”. This data is from John L Allen’s The War on Christians: dispatches from the front Lines of Anti-Christian persecutions (2013) Why does the Western media of the world not report what is arguably the worst human rights abuse going on anywhere in the world right now, period. Is it because it suffers from its own anti-Christian myopia ? Has the West become so hoodwinked by secularist relativism that it bends over backwards to be seen as “not pro-Christian” and therefore cuts away at the very foundational ideals, principles, concepts and liberties and duties which established our universities, our schooling system, much of our literature, our parliamentary democracies and most of our social institutions ? I have met over the years some extremist neo-pagans and other extremist anti-Religious or other-religious people who themselves seem to be so anti Christian that they might well even rejoice in these shocking figures. But Christian-hating, which has become a sort of disease spread by some relativist secularisers, as well as fanatics of other faiths, has consequences. What it means is that as long as it is unchallenged it will continue to allow inaction, moral blindness, apathy and under-reporting to go on, and these deaths will continue to mount up. Their blood is on the hands of all of us in the West who have freedom, who have access to the media, and who choose to remain silent. Just remember, after you have read this, that in the next hour, 11 Christians will have been killed, somewhere in the world, simply for their faith. Now get up and do something about it… What, you might ask ? The only serious action a Christian can undertake, in my view, is not “war” or “militarism” but education, and peace witness, showing there are other ways, and also theological education, explaining simply and clearly what Christianity is about, and trying to communicate that to other faith paths, in ways that make sense. This is the frontier terrain that IIPSGP occupies, and why we are working to end this shocking violence. It is why we are recording here at the Castle of the Muses our commentaries on the New Testament, as well as the entire Quran and the Psalms of Judiasm, in an attempt to advance inter-theological understanding. It is also why we hold a weekly Druid-Christian service here in the chapel. As a start, if these figures come as a shock to you, then I suggest you yourself take time out in the coming week and read the whole of the New Testament. Then ask yourself why would anybody be killed for simply believing that this text is sacred ? What is sad really, is it shows how little mankind has progressed, morally speaking. As my late mother used to say, “Humanity has a long way to go, Thomas… but we will get there in the end”. One thing for sure is that these shocking killings must cease, at once. A global interfaith ceasefire is called for, and all faith leaders of all faiths, from the smallest little pagan tribe to the greatest major denominations of the planet, should agree to sign a global non-Violence treaty in which they pledge their respective adherents not to kill or wound or hurt each other. Jews, Muslims and Christians, Bahai, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Druids, Pagans, Wiccans, New Age, New Religious Movement followers, Goddess worshippers, all are called to participate in this peace process. I hope it would be signed in time for the reopening of the Golden Gate in Jerusalem and the dedication of a Peace Tent on the Temple Mount. As a contribution towards ending the suffering of these poor people who are being martyred as we speak, 11 per hour, I believe we all have a moral duty to enable this to happen. Please join IIPSGP in its work towards this end…
Today at the Castle of the Muses we have celebrated various sages and saints, including St Canice, the son of a bard from Ireland, who was a friend and companion of St Columba and a very important early Christian Saint in both Ireland and Scotland, living from 515 – 600 AD. His father the Bard was called Lughadh and was indeed a distinguished bard, a highly trained, professional itinerant poet. Lughadh settled at Glengiven, in what is now County Londonderry. Lughadh ended up under the favour and protection of the chief of Cianachta, and became the tutor of the chieftain’s son, Geal Breagach. Canice’s mother was Maul. St Canice grew up and then in 543 became a pupil at St. Finnian’s monastic school at Clonard. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity studied at the Clonard monastery. It is said that the average number of scholars under instruction there was 3,000. Twelve students who studied under St. Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, Cainnech was one of these. It was at Clonard that Canice became a friend and companion of St Colmcille (Columba). I have myself been to Clonard and seen the ruins there. It is worth reflecting that Ireland was a place where Christian teachings and ancient pagan Druid wisdom lived comfortably alongside each other, for the most part, and that in the average modern Irish home, you still see pagan customs jostling alongside Christian ones, as revealed in John Moriarty’s fabulous autobiography Nostos. St Canice went on to travel widely throughout Ireland and Scotland, also spending time in Wales, where he was ordained, and visiting Rome, and he spent many moons on Iona, not too far from the Castle of the muses. I like to think that at some point in his wanderings he might well have passed through Loch Goil and sheltered on the rocky hill overlooking the waters that the current day Castile of the Muses stands on. In view of my own love of Salzburg, it is worth noting that it was from the monastery that St Canice founded, at Aghaboe in Ireland, which grew in importance after its original foundation by St Canice, that in the 8th century was sent St Feargal (700-784) as a missionary to the church of Salzburg. His name was latinised at St Virgil and he is known ever after as the bringer of Christianity to Salzburg and its surrounding regions. Virgil was a highly learned man and an expert in sacred geometry, canonised in 1233, who believed in the spherical shape of the earth long before it became common knowledge. H became Bishop of St Peter’s Monastery at Salzburg which is where young Mozart learned to become a musician. Kilkenny in Ireland is named after this saint, since he by legend had a final discussion or contretemps with the then Archdruid of Ireland, and his remains were later interred there. In his old age Cainnech retired to an island in what was once Loch Cree, and wrote a commentary on all four Gospels. This became known as Glass Kinnich (Glas-Chainnigh) or Chain of Cainnech. Speaking personally, I think the legend of a war between St Canice and the last Archdruid of Ireland is an exaggeration, and probably describes a healthy conversation. Druids are well known for their ferocious conversations, which to outsiders might well look like a war. St Canice was probably able to give as good as he got in this regard ! For one thing, there are still Archdruids of Ireland, and the current one is living happily in Kilkenny to this day !
Also today we celebrate the lives of the following sages: economist and philosopher E. F Schumacher, philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005, an expert on Karl Jaspers, Husserl and the reconciliation of phenomenology and Christian theology, who write widely on many philosophical matters), Egyptian sage Manetho (3rd century BC author of the History of Egypt) Islamic thinker Salih ibn Hablla, Jewish Rabbi Akiba Ben Joseph (40-137 AD, who was tortured alive by the Romans with iron combs that flayed his skin, under whose authority the current list of books in the Tanakh was largely drawn up; it was also said of him, that of 4 sages who entered paradise while still living, only he returned unscathed; Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to whose teachings the oral version of hte Zohar is ascribed, which was only written down much later, was in fact a student of Rabbi Akiba, and Akiba was also the main redactor of the Mishnah), Alan Watts and English scholar Margaret Roper 1504-1544, among others. May their work live on and show the paths to peace for all mankind !