Bishop Donal McKeown Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Down and Connor, gave the following address at Belfast City Hall on 10 January I know that there are many people here from different faith traditions and from no particular religious belief. That is good to see because that reflects the pluralist city and country that we have become. But the conviction that we all do have in common is a belief in the dignity of the individual and particularly the rights of civilians to be protected in any conflict. Those who trample on the dignity of some of us diminish both themselves and all of us. That is a belief explicitly held by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These past two weeks we have seen so many dazed, innocent and helpless people terrified, maimed and killed in Gaza as other agendas are played out over their heads and over their bodies. If we have learned anything from our own conflict it is that peace can never be attained by slaughtering people. Yes, there are huge problems in Palestine and Israel. But the powerful of the world have known that for a long time and should have put all they have into solving those years ago. Instead this long running sore about who is the greater victim has broken out yet again. And little people are again crushed in the middle. But we know from our own bitter experience that good can never be created through evil. You will never create a more human situation by killing more humans. Attempts to annihilate your enemies just create more of them. Thus we call for an end to the senseless and useless slaughter. It will achieve nothing. The killing especially of unarmed men, women and children here or anywhere else in the world is never an acceptable level of collateral damage in some greater cause. That applies in Belfast, Beirut and Baghdad. It applies in the past, the present and the future. And so we say to the combatants, "The first priority is an end to hostilities. It doesn't matter what bigger agendas are at stake and what also needs to be done. Stop firing weapons into inhabited urban areas in Gaza and in Israel. Step back from this madness." And we say to the powerful of the earth, "Don't insult us and demean yourselves by making excuses for this slaughter. No great dream can be built on the bodies of the innocent. Put your best efforts, not in building bigger weapons and stronger coalitions, but into building peace." We say to those who try to justify this or any other brutal conflict, "Don't blame the innocent women and children of Gaza or Sderot because they have been killed by a tank shell or a bomb. It is those who fire weapons and those who give the orders who are responsible for what they do. Don't blame the victims. Any other stance is morally childish." So those of us gathered here today are not just well intentioned but ill-informed bystanders to a distant conflict. We do know what it is like to live in a war-like situation. We have suffered much. So we speak today, not to vent anger and frustration but in solidarity with those who are now suffering. We know better than many that there is no situation beyond hope, no conflict where a solution cannot be found. We believe that peace is possible in the Middle East if the powerful want there to be a just peace. Together we call - and pray - for that peace. That is a reasonable demand, not a silly dream.
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