Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I'm rather busy and slightly overwhelmed just now, and so I probably won't be posting much in the next few weeks, unless provoked. But I just realised something this morning, listening to BBC Radio 4:

The Troubles in Northern Ireland seem to have convincingly drawn to a close with the newly devolved government taking office, incorporating elements of both Sinn Fein and the Protestant loyalists. The Troubles between Catholics and Protestants roiled this nation for roughly thirty years until the Good Friday Peace Accords in 1998. During this thirty years of brutality, more than 3500 people were killed by paramilitary forces; one can only guess at the damage done psychologically and otherwise to this population riven by such strife for more than a generation. People still today express shock, anger and grief at the loss of loved ones some forty years ago. Despite the peace and increasing prosperity of Northern Ireland, there will be scars borne for some time. More than 3500 people were killed over thirty years, or roughly 120 people a year, one fatality every three days or so. Just awful.

Following the news report on the latest update on devolution, another report came on and mentioned another fact which made my blood run cold. The Second Congo War, a civil war from 1998 until 2003 - and although a peace treaty was signed in 2003, the war continues in low level fashion until this very day - has claimed an estimated 3.8 million lives (reckoned due to starvation and disease brought about by the war as well as direct combat; war kills in many ways). If my calculations are correct, that is more than 1,000 people a day. The First and Second Congo Wars arose in the wake of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, which itself took an estimated 900,000 lives in 100 days - 9,000 people killed per day. These horrors almost defy description, plunging the meaning of 'enormity' to new depths.*

The violence in Northern Ireland was brutal, often being taken out on the defenseless, and mentioning the Congo and Rwanda is in no way meant to minimise the very real grief and horror of the Troubles. Yet if the legitimate grief, anger and resentment of a generation of the Troubles will be scars which Northern Irish people (and others affected) carry with them for more generations, how can central Africa ever hope to recover in any way? I am gutted and grief-stricken by such wickedness and - except, of course, for the perverse power of sin, which itself begets sin - completely at a loss for why people would continue to find force, violence, and war to be means to peace and life.

*'Enormity' in the British sense has a specifically negative connotation: it is not merely something large (as in American English), but something which is a massive horror, an atrocity.

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