For those of you who are interested Channel 4 is broadcasting a programme presented by this Blog on Sunday evening at 6.55pm. The programme is called ‘The Bible: A History – Jesus’.
For reasons beyond me my role as presenter is causing a little controversy among the great and the good. And that’s even before the programme is broadcast. It’s a bit like condemning a book you’ve never read.
For my part it was an interesting project. The technical and artistic side of film making, and all the others bits and bobs that go with that, was educational. But the opportunity to immerse myself with the Jesus message and to visit places that he had lived in, as well as the access to scholars was mighty.
So, I am happy with the programme. And I thank everyone who was involved in putting it together.
I learned a lot about the historical figure of Jesus during this project and also about the Jesus message of peace, love, forgiveness and repentance. One of the interesting little side issues was that some of the people involved in making the programme from Britain saw the conflict in Ireland as a religious one.
This obviously wasn’t a thought out view. In fact it was very superficial and I found it very interesting that every Irish person I spoke to, regardless of their political allegiance, dismissed the description of the conflict here as religious.
So, the education in the making of this programme wasn’t just good for me it was good for everyone.
Religion or the exploitation of religion and sectarianism is of course part of the backcloth by which the conflict in Ireland was created and sustained by the establishment. Sectarianism is a direct symptom and a tool of colonialism. It is a device to keep people in their place and to divide people who have a lot in common with each other.
Which brings me to the issue of the Orange Order. The Orange proclaims itself as ‘Christ-centred, Bible-based and Church grounded.’
There are over three thousand orange marches in the north every year. Generally speaking they pass off without any great fuss, not least because of the tolerance of everybody else. There are a small number of contentious parades which for years caused considerable difficulties.
One of the big problems incidentally touched on by a loyalist leader, Jackie MacDonald this week, is that the orange would march into an area where they were unwelcome and leave everybody else to deal with the consequences in the weeks and months afterwards.
That the lid was generally kept on some of these areas is down to local residents and Sinn Féin representatives. But there has also been good steady work done by others on the unionist side, including sensible people in loyalist and community organisations.
All of these matters are currently the subject of a working group set up by the First Minister and deputy First Minister, as set out in the agreement at Hillsborough. It comprises of 6 people with experience of parading issues. They are charged with bringing forward agreed outcomes with the potential to create a new improved framework for the management and regulation of public assemblies, including parades and related protests.
Irrespective of the differences between us there is clearly a need to focus on how to resolve the remaining handful of contentious parades in a spirit of mutual respect. As a society, we cannot afford the negative and unsustainable political, financial and social costs from parading disputes.
But we have to go beyond settling contentious parades. We need to build a new relationship of tolerance and respect. Irish republicans want to understand and appreciate the position of the Orange. We accept the right of the Order to parade and to promote its sense of Orangeism. But this has to be on the basis of equality and mutual respect and tolerance.
The Orange Order and Orangeism is a part of who we are as a nation. We recognise that Orange is one of our national colours, and republicans and nationalists need to be continuously reminded of this. Mutual respect is required all round. If we want respect for our views then we must also respect the views of those who differ from us.
Some commentators have said that the working group on parades has its work cut out. That’s only true if there’s a lack of political will. In my view the political will is there. It might need encouraged and developed but I believe we could well see the ushering in of a new atmosphere and a new willingness by everyone to create tolerance and greater understanding of the differences between all of us.