11 July 2006, 17:16
Europe needs Russia - without it there would be an artificial Europe
Is there any link between Catholicism and the Irish Republican Army? How did the Catholic church help IRA give up violent methods for achieving its goals? How to bring peace to Kosovo? Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who participated in the World Summit of Religious Leaders in Moscow, answered these and many other questions in his interview to Interfax-Religion.
- Your Eminence, terrorism based on religion was one of the main themes at the World Summit of Religious Leaders in Moscow. It is known that the Irish Republican Army is often cited as an example of a terrorist group of Catholic ideology. Do you agree with this statement?
- It would be hard to say that the IRA is a terrorist group that is based on Catholic ideology. The big differences in Ireland are about nationalism and you have a republican violence which was in favor of the united Ireland independent from Britain and the Unionists violence which was to detain the current identity of Northern Ireland. But these ideologies are rooted - one primarily in the Catholic community, one - primarily in the Protestant community. But religion is not the primary factor there. All the main churches in Ireland have condemned terrorism and particularly today any of the remaining vestiges of terrorism and none of them would claim to be religious in its ideology.
- Was the IRA similar to Islamist organizations in its activity or it had distinctive features?
- I think that the IRA has had various stages in its development, beginning back in the 19th century it played the significant role in the IRA's independence. But then as it moved more into an ongoing terrorist group regarding Northern Ireland, it had strong political support. But the important thing now in the peace process is that the peace process in Northern Ireland offered those who want a united Ireland the ability to maintain their political objective but they got the desire to achieve it by nonviolent means. And their leadership can achieve their political objectives more effectively now through political means than through violent means. This is to the credit of the leaders and to the peace process which gave them the possibility of participation. If people are not allowed to participate or don't feel that their voice is heard in a democratic process then there are more reasons to return to violence. And my hope is that in another places, for example in the Basque country in Spain, the process would be more sensitive to legitimate political aspirations of people and would foster participation and reduce the level of violence.
- How have the Catholic clergy regarded the IRA's activity?
- In some stages there may have been some sympathy, particularly when the Catholic population was suffering repression or exclusion. But in recent times there would be almost universal condemnation of violence. However, when a political process is too slow the danger of going back to violence reappears. So there is a great responsibility for the political leaders in Northern Ireland and Britain in republic environment to do everything possible to get this process to go to that final stage when both sides effectively sit down. And again we are coming up to a new deadline which we hope will be met.
- The IRA has stopped terrorist activity. What is the merit of the Irish Catholic Church in it?
- I think there would be a number of senior clergy who first made possible the contacts between people on both sides. And those people, at times very courageously, built bridges between both sides so that confidence could be built up. This was an extremely important role that they played. Both Catholic and Protestant clergy. For example, even among the people who are in prison for terrorism and the prison chaplains helped some discussion there, which is extremely important because the terrorists in prison have a symbolic leadership role and if they don't agree the things will not proceed.
- You know well the examples of violence in your country. Today one of the problems that has international response is the problem of Kosovo. How would it be possible to reach peace between the Albanians and the Serbs there?
- I think that the only way forward for neighbors is to live together. And in today's world you can see that we can find new solutions which promise normal democracy and also protection for minorities. There is no way we can move forward in today's world without looking at those new creative ways to ensure that minorities can stay where they have been. We are never going to be able to achieve ethnically clean boundaries and it is a mark of the progress of civilization that we are able to integrate those two principals of the majority democracy and at the same time protection and not only protection but the authority of minorities. Churches can set out principals and ideas. You need also politicians who have the courage to take on the responsibility and to find the political solutions that are necessary. And this means rising above the traditions of the past attacks and looking toward a new open relationship with people. I think that it is almost the contradiction at times you find the young people are more intransigent then their parents and after the WW II the decisions were taken by farseeing leaders not to punish Germany but to integrate it. And the European ideal in that sense is quite a remarkable one. It is an ideal based on integration of people and it's important to learn from that. Returning to Ireland again, it's important to mention there would be greater economic integration and sharing economic prosperity. Divisions among people damage society, economy and lives.
- What is your impression of the Summit of Religious Leaders in Moscow?
- One of the good things about this meeting is that we sit in peacefully together, religious leaders from around the world and particularly from various parts of Europe. In religion, signs and symbols are often as important as words. And for me it's attractive that the meeting has taken place here, that there is such a wide representation of particularly Islamic communities from within the Russian Federation. Very often traditional interreligious meetings are very Western, and this one was not. It's a good sign that it has happened in Moscow. It is an important sign. I think Europe needs Russia. Europe without Russia would be an artificial Europe.