When I think of an Irish ship on the sea filled with supplies for the needy, one image that does NOT come to mind is the picture of hundreds of ships from Ireland — then in the grip of The Great Hunger — sailing to England, the author of her agony, brimming with fresh cattle, sheep and dairy products meant for the fattened animals known as the English.
Since I do not believe our Loving Father deals in chance or coincidence, I think it no coincidence that the Irish flag ship Rachel Corrie is trying to deliver emergency aid to the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip at precisely the moment we Irish recall the anniversary of An Gorta Mor.
Cecil Woodham-Smith, an authority on the Irish Famine, wrote in "The Great Hunger; Ireland 1845–1849," that no issue has provoked so much anger and embittered relations between England and Ireland as "the indisputable fact that huge quantities of food were exported from Ireland to England throughout the period when the people of Ireland were dying of starvation." Ireland remained a leading exporter of food to England throughout most of the five-year Famine.
Christine Kinealy, a University of Liverpool fellow and author of two texts on the famine, "Irish Famine: This Great Calamity" and "A Death-Dealing Famine," writes that Irish exports of calves, livestock (except pigs), bacon and ham actually increased during the Famine. The food was shipped under guard from the most Famine-stricken parts of Ireland. However, the poor Irish had no money to buy food."
The current — and excellent — edition of Irish America magazine (IrishCentral's sister publication) is devoted to an outstanding remembrance of the Famine, which you can read by clicking here. Unflinching and honest to a fault, it tells not only of the venom, hatred and prejudice that doomed millions of Irish, but to those good and noble hearts around the world who would not sit idly while a nation perished.
The Famine is rightly considered not only a human holocaust, but the birth of a special Irish spirit — perhaps a rebel spirit in that it would not accept double standards and double-dealing — that in many ways is alive and well today. I believe that even the uprising that has turned an Irish Cardinal's red hat into a scarlet letter and toppled the judgmental, all-powerful Irish Catholic Church from its self-made pedestal of power into "the defendant," is another expression of that spirit.
Which brings us to a modern-day Irish ship bobbing on the seas, the Rachel Corrie. It too is filled with Irish rebels, including Nobel Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, who insist on the right to deliver humanitarian supplies to the war-torn Gaza Strip. The Irish Government stands with them, and has attempted to negotiate these perilous waters with the government of Israel, which after much saber-rattling and threats of harm, is working on a compromise that the crew of the Rachel Corrie may or may not accept.
Ireland's most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Sean Brady, on Friday called for Israel to lift its military blockade of Gaza. The Primate of All-Ireland urged countries around the world to ensure international law is upheld by all parties in the region.
The Cardinal offered prayers for the families and friends of the nine Turks killed by Israeli commandos on an aid boat Monday.
"I deeply regret the loss of life and injury resulting from Israel's military takeover in international waters of the flotilla of humanitarian aid to Gaza this week," Brady said, mincing no words.
"Such loss of life is tragic and the violence associated with these events is reprehensible. It is clear that it is now time to lift the blockade on Gaza."
Brady, who visited Gaza in 2008, said he had been deeply moved by the "dire and unnecessary situation of human deprivation and need" in the terrorist Hamas stronghold.
It is said that man for man, Israel has the best fighting army in the world. Which, sadly, means that Israel is the most-frightened nation in the world. There is, of course, no shortage of people to fear in the "Holy Land," and historically, hard-line military policies are all that has "worked" for Israel in this bottle of scorpions.
The Shoah — the beyond-all-evil Nazi Holocaust that saw millions of Jews and others exterminated — was a monstrous moment in history that just keeps on "giving" — both for the good and the bad.
Instilling in the Jews the iron determination that "never again" would the horror of the Holocaust be permitted to happen, they built a democratic state of their own, a sanctuary in the Holy Land. But in fortifying themselves against the evil of history, have they also forgotten the good?
Hundreds of thousands of people liberated the Jews from Hitler's camps, tried the remaining evil-doers, and helped build the Jewish state — a state that did not exist in the camps, but which was certainly born there. The Jews know better than anyone on the planet what being a prisoner of war is, and what a holy thing an act of bravery and generosity is. Or do they? This is their moment to answer.
Tonight, let us pray that the Jewish people, so horribly abused throughout centuries, will also see the light of decency and goodness in their history, and in their hearts. We are only secure when we are in harmony with God's Own Will.
His Will be done.
God bless you all!
— Father Tim