Why we must never forget murder of Jean McConville
Remembrance Day marks one of the most solemn periods of the year. We are not yet started into the swing of the Christmas celebrations, and the annual November ceremonies always underline the enormous human price which has been paid in wars of so many kinds.
Tomorrow there will be Remembrance Services in churches all over our land where people will pay tribute within a religious and spiritual context, which is particularly fitting.
At such services I always think of those who fought and died to preserve our liberties, and I also remember those who suffered on all sides, and others who are still suffering now.
Nevertheless, I never cease to be amazed by those in Northern Ireland who cannot recognise the sacrifice of the men and women from all over this island who fought in the World Wars, as if the Poppy belonged to only one side.
It is part of the task of the new generation to teach people that the blood and the pain of violence knows no barriers, and this week I have been thinking particularly of the McConville family who have suffered grievously for so many years.
Their harrowing story was retold with great force in a BBC documentary this week which underlined how an innocent widow and mother of 10 children was wrongly abducted and murdered by members of the republican movement.
Although I, and many other people, lived through those terrible times, it was shocking to be reminded of the sheer viciousness and inhumanity of what we gloss over as 'The Troubles'.
I also find it hard to countenance the glib words and the convenient political amnesia of those people who seem to live in denial, and without a shred of conscience. The old 'whataboutery', described by the late Gerry Fitt, is still very much alive. Both sides seek refuge from the horror they have created by cynically blaming each other.
So where was religion in all of this?
It was indeed shocking to realise that a Catholic priest who gave the last rites to a young man about to be executed by the Provisional IRA did not have conscience enough to pass on any information to the police.
Another scene from the BBC documentary showed an elderly Provisional IRA leader telling us chillingly that he had no problem about certain 'executions', which is the language of war.
However, I could not help noticing the large Celtic Cross in the same room where he spoke.
Obviously the Biblical commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' was very selective, depending on who was in line to kill or to be killed.
This was not just a republican characteristic.
Many a loyalist thug also used violence in the name of 'God and Ulster'.
Violence, bigotry, brutality, cynicism and the lack of mercy was not the prerogative of any one side.
So the cold-blooded murder of Jean McConville and the suffering of her 10 orphaned children must never be forgotten as a warning about what can happen in a society which lost its way, and still might.
Whoever killed Jean McConville, or ordered her to be murdered, will get his just deserts in the next world, if not in this one.
In the meantime, during this period of remembrance, we should pause and think of the violence which so many human beings inflicted on each other in this province.
May God forgive us.
The two O'Neills
A united Ireland we could all support
You would need to believe in the Biblical concept of miracles if you think that the appointment of Martin O'Neill as the Republic's soccer boss, and also Michael O'Neill as Northern Ireland manager, will bring either team nearer to winning a major trophy.
What we need is not new managers, but a new team made up from the best players in each jurisdiction.
However, that would mean a lot of lost jobs, so it won't happen. So let's apply some Christian charity and wish them all the best!
Cathedral's move hits right note
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, is continuing his quiet but essential work of creating healing within St Anne's Cathedral – after the many hurts of the past – and also reaching further into the community.
This week the cathedral announced the creation of a cross-community and ecumenical Choir School by forming a "strong musical relationship" with three schools in north Belfast. This really does hit the right note.