BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day
3rd July 1998N.I. and the Cycle of Karma
Good morning. The Good Friday Agreement, the referendum Yes vote and Wednesday’s fragile start to the Assembly all auger well for a new future for Northern Ireland. In stark contrast, the arson attacks on ten Catholic churches were an evil attempt to rekindle the worst of Ireland’s past - a ploy to stir up anger and retaliation on the eve of the marching season.
I was born in Belfast and in mid-teens when the troubles began. At school in the centre of town we would hear the bombs going off around us. One day, I was outside the Europa Hotel and a bomb blast sent glass pouring on to the footpaths injuring shoppers either side of me. Thankfully, I walked on unscathed. But, I often wonder how my attitudes might be different if I, or someone I cared for, had been maimed in that incident.
In those days, school education separated our communities, so did the sports and social clubs. Even before the troubles began, prejudice was rife. In addition, after over 30 years of troubles, there can be few families who have not suffered loss or injury to their loved ones. And so the hatred and division continue. As Shakespeare said in Macbeth “and blood shall have of blood.”
In Hindu terms, this is the cycle of karma. Previous events have led to our present circumstances. They also shape how we react to these circumstances and that, in turn, determines our future - and so on.
Justice, principles and fairness are surely important matters for politicians, but sometimes when they are considered in a narrow or personal context, they simply perpetuate the karmic process. Injury creates hurt, which spawns a need for justice and recrimination, which so easily slips over the line into retaliation and greater injury. Those politicians struggling with the complexities of the issues of Northern Ireland must view what is just, fair or right in a broader agenda – that which will cut through the cycle of karma, end the feuding and bring peace to the community.
Karma is considered a universal law, but it is not inviolable. It affects us only in the absence of our dependence on God. If we want to overcome the power of karmic forces, the Hindu scriptures say that we must take shelter under God’s guidance and protection. I believe that the people of Northern Ireland must already be doing just that to have made so much progress in recent times.
May they and their politicians recognise and avoid confrontations which are symptomatic of old and dangerous patterns. And may they continue to work for a peace which will once and for all end the historic cycle of violence and retribution.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.