Our contemporary culture war around secularism and the place of religion — primarily Catholicism in Ireland’s case — in public life can be heated, especially around health or education issues. Historic betrayals animate it too. However, no matter how fraught, no matter how passionate that debate has, thankfully, remained comparatively civilised. Shouting maybe, shooting no.
The Easter bomb attacks across Sri Lanka that killed over 250 people show that this position, one of tolerance if not quiet respect, is not universal. That many of Sri Lanka’s Catholics stayed at home yesterday and celebrated Mass through television because of fears of renewed attacks as churches remained closed underlines a denial of a basic freedom.
The weekend attack on a synagogue near San Diego as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday, killing a woman, is another sad example of hate directed towards religion. This is strange, as history shows, especially in our pre-independence years, that nothing strengthens religious observance than a campaign to suppress it.