December/January 2021: Editorial


The ‘Other’



After almost two years of living with COVID19 Irish children, in record numbers, are reported by agencies concerned with their welfare to be suffering from mental trauma partly exacerbated by the 40,000 complaints of domestic abuse in Irish homes which has been recorded at the same time. It’s a grim picture this Christmas that won’t easily be alleviated by what the late great Brendan Keneally described in his poem December as ‘the treacherous generosity of presents’. Ireland’s children of course are not alone in their trauma. In his article on Gaza in this issue of Intercom, John Smith, Director of Public Engagement, Trócaire details some of the agony experienced by the million children of Gaza after years of bombardment and deprivation. Their cousins on the West Bank fare somewhat better.

     After twenty years behind a 70-foot high and 400-mile-long grey wall, the children of Bethlehem still manage to smile brightly at this time of year because Bethlehem’s youngest celebrate no less than three Christmas Days; the Latin one on 25 December, the Armenian on 6 January and the Orthodox on 7 January. Each one brings fresh crowds of rejoicing pilgrims to the shrine of the Nativity and ensures that Christmas lights linger longer in Bethlehem than anywhere else on earth. The artist Banksy has also done his best to ensure that the notorious wall becomes a focus for peace for the segregated Palestinian children many of whom have never known anything else other than their walled off home. The grey barrier of Bethlehem has symbolic significance beyond its famous location. Its shadow falls upon the entire world in its rejection of ‘the other’.

     Pope Francis inaugurating the synodal pathway describes it as walking together, encountering the other, listening and discerning the way forward. His dream looks beyond the usual boundaries, and he has told us not to be afraid to dream and above all, to pray. The Word became flesh, completely ‘other’ that we might enjoy life in all its fullness. For the better future of the world’s children may we allow ourselves this Christmas a real encounter with ‘the other’, whoever that other may be for us.


Paul Clayton-Lea