Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke has highlighted the massive difficulties that exist when there is a serious clash between differing perceptions of fundamental identity and culture in society.
Dr Clarke, delivering the keynote address at his church’s annual general synod in Limerick, said the difficulties arise when each side in the discussion seeks to “demean, threaten or even destroy the other”.
“Many of the extraordinary changes on the world scene over the past year might reasonably be seen as revolving ultimately around a single conception, that of identity.
“We have indeed seen many examples of this over recent months, and in many places, near and far.”
The archbishop, clearly pointing to acute cultural and identity differences in the Irish situation and conflict in the Middle East, added: “What then can easily follow is a willingness to replace any obedience to truth with whatever risible nonsense will reinforce our prejudices as we seek to demonise the ‘otherness’ of those we see as different from us, and hence is highly dangerous.
“The casual arrival of such a tactic – totally unblushingly – into public discourse in the society of today, in the supposed interests of maintaining one’s own cherished identity, has polluted the moral foundations of society itself.”
Dr Clarke said, as Christian disciples, they should recognise that there is a basic identity that must be shared with all others, that of being made by God in “His image and likeness”.
“This means that others – all others – must be treated with a complete dignity and with an utter respect. There are, of course, other identities of which we must be aware, but these cannot be allowed to deface our essential fundamental identity of being loved equally by God.
“But we are called to find another identity within our Christian calling. This comes through strongly in the Gospels where Christ calls us to find a true identity, not only with those who are like us, or with those whom we find it easy to like or admire, but with those who most need our love and our care.”
The general synod, attended by 660 clerical and lay delegates from the dioceses across Ireland, will continue in the South Court Hotel, Limerick until Saturday. The synod began on Thursday morning with a eucharist service in St Mary’s Cathedral, conducted by the Bishop of Limerick Rev Dr Kenneth Kearon.