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Remembering Brussels

An Ecumenical Service of Remembrance was held on Tuesday 19 April in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, to mark the month’s memory of the tragic deaths in Brussels on Tuesday 22 March. Conor Harper SJ, who is a curate in the parish, reports that the event was dignified and deeply moving. “It was good to see so many people participate,” he remarked, “including representatives from embassies from around the world.”

President Michael D Higgins attended the service, which was arranged at the request of the Ambassador of Belgium, His Excellency Philippe Roland. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and Archbishop Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, presided at the event, and both Imam Hussein Halawa and a representative of the Jewish community were also present.

Archbishop Martin noted that even though Brussels has all the tensions that one would expect in a modern metropolitan city, it had taken on a special role in the European context, one of welcoming and facilitating the meetings of an immense range of visitors. He recalled his own experience of “the hospitality which the citizens of Brussels day after day offer to men and women of all faiths, cultures and political persuasions who come to their city seeking to work for a better Europe”.
He called on all Europeans to take a stand against a culture of violence: “We must stand together uncompromisingly rejecting the squalid international trade in the weapons of violence. We must stand together uncompromisingly protecting young people from being misled by a false idealisation of violence. We must stand together uncompromisingly rejecting any compromise of our fundamental values of welcome and unity and opportunity for all. This evening, as Irish or Belgian, as Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, as men or women, believers or not, aware that we all share a common humanity, we commit ourselves to fostering a culture of peace.”

“Hope in a time of fear” was the theme of Archbishop Jackson’s address. He lamented the “violence and the cruelty and the public cynicism” of the terrorists and insisted that we Europeans had to find a response to these actions “from within the best of our inheritance”. Thanks to the brutal acts of the terrorists Brussels is a fractured society and many lives are broken, but Christian people, he added, are “called and compelled to seek hope while they and others seek help”. Hope, he noted, can break through the fractures that acts of violence cause. And on the theme of hope he quoted the words of an African woman in the hangar at the airport in Brussels to which survivors were hurried on 22 March: “With their bombs these attackers try to strike our way of life, our culture. But look at us here. We are together in this hangar, no one is fighting, and we are here together, peacefully.”