Friday, March 17, 2006

St Patrick's Day

Today is St Patrick's Day, the feast of Patrick, missionary to and patron saint of Ireland. The traditional celebrations associated with the day originate with Irish soldiers serving with the British Army in colonial New York, who wanted a way to connect with home. From there, festivities spread to embrace the global Irish Diaspora - and back home to Ireland itself - as a celebration of Irish roots. But on St Patrick's Day, everyone can be an honorary Irishman for a day, swirled-into the mix through New York, Boston, Chicago...

And so Patrick, himself transplanted as a slave, is further transplanted: from patron saint of Ireland; to patron saint of Irish immigrants; to patron saint of immigrants, wherever they originate from.

Like the USA, the UK has a long tradition of being open to controlled, legal immigration; of resisting uncontrolled, illegal immigration; and of having to deal, from time to time, with the tensions resulting in different communities living side-by-side in close proximity. In one form or another, immigration is never out of the news these days. St Patrick's Day is as good an excuse as any to take time to think about the topic; to pray for those who have to make, and enforce, decisions on people's lives; to reach out in friendship towards someone from another culture; to make a stand against racism...Raise a glass in honour of Patrick.

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