Settler colonialism displaces people (and other creatures) and ruptures their relationships with land, other beings and within themselves. One of the reasons religion (I am thinking about Christianity, specifically, but it could be other religions) seems to be such an effective tool for colonisation is that it is the dimension where these relationships are simultaneously intimate and public, where private desires (whether for purity, redemption, union with (____)) become political/social performances, i.e. identifying with a particular group in an antagonistic relationship to at least one “other” group. I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I try to gain a better understanding of the riots that have broken out in Derry, Belfast, Coleraine and Carrickfergus since the beginning of the month of April.
I am also thinking about how deepening one’s relationship to place, the people and the history of that place, might not “solve” anything, but it is still a gesture towards healing a deeper displacement that seems to be a feature of modernity.
And while the text that I am sharing (from Siobhán Garrigan’s book The Real Peace Process: Worship, Politics and the End of Sectarianism, published in 2010) and this conversation seem to be very Ireland-specific, the resonances are as global as settler colonialism itself. One of the reasons I want to sit with this, with others, is that this is what is currently happening around me. Another reason is that I think the problems of some places, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, former Yugoslavia, racist violence in the US, have come to seem intractable; the complexity can’t adequately be represented within the forms we have to explain such things. But this is only true from a zoomed out view. So it is good to get in close.
I don’t know nearly enough about the history of this place; this is a window into what I am reading and learning. The question that haunts me has something to do with the intimacy of the spiritual union with (_____) — think about the intimacy in the passage from Luke in this week’s readings from the lectionary — and how violence, sectarian or otherwise, cuts directly through that intimacy.
If you don’t have time to read the entire text below, this poem by Colette Bryce would still offer plenty to talk about.
Coffee Hour is a lightly facilitated, gently theological online space where you are welcome, no religious commitment assumed or expected. It happens every week at 1-2pm Irish time. The password changes (today it is: SiobhanGarrigan); the video conference link is always the same: https://meet.jit.si/CoffeeHourWithFriends2021