2017 The Year of Walls

Doubtless many of you will have kept abreast of the way international politics seems to be heading – there is more of an inclination now to build a protective wall of words or concrete as if it were to make the world a better place by lambasting ones enemies in spontaneous tweets or making contractors rich in building seemingly impenetrable wall. The Romans did it with Hadrian’s Wall to keep those barbaric Scots in ancient Alba. If my history serves me right, the Chinese replicated it by building the great wall to keep out the Mongol hoards. Alcatraz was meant to keep bad people in. Our great castles bear witness to an age when walls were there not only to protect those within but to dominate those without. Walls stopped being built defensively when we had learnt the lesson that they are pretty ineffective – particularly against the cannons. But wasn’t it Sir Isaac Newton who said that we still build too many walls and not enough bridges. It was always thus. We bang far too many people up in prison to protect the public just as Israel builds walls to keep people in perhaps emanated by Trump keep Mexicans out. In or out the merry dance continues like some

The latest offering on the wall in Bethlehem

But we have seen time and time again that there ought to be no constraints to the human mind and no walls to dampen the human spirit as humanity wins in the end – we have seen it in Germany when the wall came down; it worked in Northern Ireland despite many a slip; we see it every day when some Israelis and Palestinians are willing to cross the divide and to work, talk and break bread together. ‘Love recognises no barriers. It can jump hurdles, leaps fences, penetrate walls to arrive at its destination full of hope’ (Maria Angelou). So really we don’t need cannons to defeat the whole point of having walls and fences. Those of us old and wise enough to see through all this destructive rhetoric, all these knee jerk tweeted reactions to events that go on around us, we have a task in hand; we have work to do to educate particularly young people that there are older kinder and better ways to communicate with and treat each other. It is often the weakest in our societies such as refugees and others who have lost everything that bring out the best in us – such as the wonderful spirit of those who helped at the Grenfell Tower or those supporting victims and offenders in the restorative justice programme. Our connectivity to each other should triumph over our own destructive tendency to isolate, protect, wall out the enemy. Mankind is so silly you have to laugh sometimes at just how thick we all are at learning the lessons of history.

Making light in the Walled off Hotel Bethlehem. We are all walled in in the end … so!