Armagh centenary service: ‘St Patrick had every reason to hate the Irish – but he didn’t’

The president of Ireland’s Methodist Church has declared that St Patrick had “every reason to hate the Irish” – but that he instead embraced the values of Christ.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 1:34 pm

Rev Dr Sahr Yambasu, originally from Sierra Leone in west Africa, told the roughly 150 political leaders, VIPs and schoolchildren, that the island’s patron saint had been “the first antislavery voice out of Ireland”.

His main address at the Catholic / Protestant service (which began with Anglican dean Shane Forster greeting attendees in Irish) centred on the 4th century saint – who was actually born somewhere in Great Britain, then under Roman rule, and only later came to Ireland when he was captured by pirates and enslaved.

“Lest we forget, before he became Patron Saint of Ireland, Patrick was a slave here, “ said Dr Yambasu.

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st October 2021 - Canon Shane Forster pictured at the service of 'Reflection and Hope' to mark the Centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland at St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

“Here, he suffered an intentional act of violence. And, here, he was made to feel a little less human than those who enslaved him.

“And yet it is to this place, land, and people he returned to spend the rest of his life enabling the Irish to find an alternative way of living in solidarity one with the other.

“Patrick had every reason to hate the Irish and seek for vengeance. But he didn’t.

“Instead, he forgave and was forgiven. Consequently, the history of this place could be summarised in one word: GRACE - unmerited concern for the good of the other.

“For us Christians, grace is a gift. That gift is a person. Jesus Christ is his name. He is the gift of God to St. Patrick.

“It is that gift that made him return to Ireland not to hold the past against the people of Ireland, but to hold before them the possibility of a mutually enhanced future.”

Rev Yabasu also said: “Born and raised in Sierra Leone - on the continent of Africa - I speak as one whose people were bought, sold, and used for profit; whose continent was partitioned without any reference to or consultation with its inhabitants and owners; and whose colour is seen as sufficient excuse to ignore their equal humanity with others.”

He said that “I have spent the last 26 years on this island negotiating my acceptance as of equal value” with Irish people and British people.

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