DIVIDED SCHOOLS

 

Sir, Patrick Comerford (January 18th) assures us that the major religions are not divisive institutions founded on obsolete beliefs, but vigorous agents of good in a troubled world.

Unfortunately, he is judging them by what they preach, rather than what they do. All the major religions preach love, brotherhood, neighbourliness and all that. But then they all want their own separate, segregated schools so that they can be sure of getting hold of the next generation of the faithful. Thus we have Catholic schools, Jewish schools, Muslim schools, etc., and very little sign of any faith being magnanimous enough to put the interests of the whole society before its own selfish interest.

Mr Comerford cites Archbishop Tutu as an example of a cleric who has worked hard for a moral cause - bringing down apartheid in South Africa. Yes, I admire him too. But what about the religious apartheid in schools which has brought so much division right here on this island? Protestants and Catholics have been at odds here for quite a few years; indeed, the division between them caused the island to be partitioned in 1922. But there is still no sign that the churches will recognise their moral duty to leave education alone and allow children from different backgrounds to meet as friends and equals, without religious labels stamped all over them. They are quite prepared to go on perpetuating division.

Mr Comerford should read about the attempts of the Minister of Education in the North during the 1920s to introduce an integrated education system. The Minister had the best interests of the whole society at heart and he fought the churches, Protestant and Catholic, for nearly 10 years - but they won in the end. They wanted division and when you look at the North now, you can see that they got it! Even after 27 years of murder and mayhem, they show no doubt that the segregated system they insisted upon might be exacerbating the problem.

Fine words butter no parsnips, and fine sermons do not hide deeply divisive practices which have no moral justification. - Yours, etc.,

4 School Lane,

Greenisland,

Co Antrim

BT38 8RL