(My Thought For The Day on BBC Radio Ulster on January 20, 2022.)
When former South African President FW De Klerk died late last year I remembered a lesson he taught us about Peacemaking. Speaking to a group of my Queens University Presbyterian Chaplaincy students back in 2002 he told us that before we did any work of reconciliation that we needed to search our own motives right down to the very marrow.
Deep deep search. It reminded me of Psalm 139.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
FW’s advice came back to me this week as I tried to come to terms with the tragic death of Aisling Murphy.
As a pastor the news of Ashling’s murder hit me deep in the heart. How do parents deal with that news. That loss. That heartache. Jesus called the Holy Spirit a Comforter and we have been praying in Fitzroy that Aisling’s family and friends would know that comfort.
But something more is rising out of Aisling’s needless murder. Men’s attitudes toward women. The fear that women feel. Aisling just went for a run BUT as a woman she would always have been looking cautiously ahead and fearing what might be behind her.
I have two daughters almost the same age and this fear that women live with needs to change. We need societal turnaround in how men respect and act towards women.
I am back to FW De Klerk. In these days as the island grieves Aisling, men need to search themselves down to the very marrow. What do we think about a women’s place in society? Or in the Church? How do we treat women? Do we see women as equals? How do we look at women? How do women see us looking at them. We need to search ourselves… deep.
FW De Klerk’s second piece of advice… once you’ve searched to the marrow. Search yourself again. In case you have missed something.
We don’t need to lose any more young women in the prime of their lives. The answer lies with men. And we need to start now. First we have to search ourselves right down to the marrow… and then… search again.