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Thought for the weekend: Living in troubled times

I spoke to a person during the week. Her head was bowed and she looked dejected and depressed. "Things are in a terrible state," she said.

"Are they any worse than 20, 30 years ago?" I responded. "Worse," she said with an air of resignation, "much worse."

I said, "But we cannot give up. We must always hope and work to make things better."

I agree with that lady: we live in unusually challenging times. As we talked it was clear she had in mind items constantly in the news – Stormont, Ebola, and Islamic State. I shared her concerns.

There is the inexcusable failure to implement welfare reform at Stormont and the consequential financial penalties.

Many people recognise that, within the UK, Northern Ireland receives preferential financial treatment and generous funding from Westminster.

For example, last year public spending on each one of us in Northern Ireland was £9,385: but, in England, that dropped to £7,121.

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We are the best-funded region of the UK.

There is the rampage of the Ebola virus in West Africa, where the disease has killed 8,000 people.

There are mixed messages about the control and spread of the virus. Hopefully, the urgent responses of many countries will prove effective.

Almost every day brings disturbing news of the savagery and bloodthirstiness of the terror group Islamic State.

Incredulously, they believe they are doing the will of Allah by decapitating "infidels" – i.e those who do not share their narrow view of religion.

Their mindset is one of hatred and reprehensible tyranny: and is completely at variance with the broad sweep of religious thinking in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and much of Islam. Their objective is to liquidate all who differ from them.

The failure at Stormont, the spread of Ebola, and the savagery of Islamic State should be a cause of concern to all of us. All three need to be stopped and reversed.

Our Assembly politicians are elected to office with a civic responsibility to make democracy work so that our Government is not in a state of perpetual crisis. The electorate – especially our young people – deserve better.

Delivering good government will mean that many sacred cows of loyalism and republicanism must be sacrificed in the quest for a just and free society.

Regarding Ebola, as each day passes, there is increasing confidence that the threat can be contained and reversed. There is emerging evidence that the most fertile breeding ground for the disease is poverty and inadequate healthcare.

This knowledge should assuage the fears of people in developed countries and intensify efforts by the global community to defeat the disease.

The Islamic State organisation is a threat to humanity and civilised living. Its unspeakable activities must be stopped and those guilty of crimes brought to justice.

As I think of that lady, and of the fears and apprehensions of all of us, some words of Jesus come to mind: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid."


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