The troubles

Greg Sheridan’s brief history of the Irish conflict (“Ireland helps to heal wounds”, The Australian, 28/5) reminds us how religion can become interwoven into what were originally territorial clashes.

The first waves of English incursion into Ireland pre-date Protestantism by some centuries. It was only many generations later, when the descendants of the invaders were mingled with the original population, that “the troubles” became focussed on religion, which served as a badge of allegiance.

We see this pattern elsewhere: below the surface of religious hatreds, we find a history of territorial war or oppression. Where there is no such history, religions can coexist peacefully.

The Irish example is both a template for resolving such conflicts, and a salient warning against the religious intolerance which has lately been fed by the so-called “war on terror”, and has found hiding places among anti-immigration lobbies and fundamentalist groups alike.

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