Prince Charles Spearheads Reconciliation and Compassion.
This last Tuesday evening [19 May] at a reception at the National University of Ireland Galway something very civilised happened. It was an event that reflects the clear difference between civilised and primal peoples.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, shook hands publicly and met privately with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and his colleague Martin McGuinness at the start of the Princes four-day visit to Ireland. The meeting lasted some twenty minutes.
Later in the trip the Prince accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, will visit the village of Mullaghmore in County Sligo - where his great-uncle, Earl Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.
The symbolism of this hand shake, the first meeting in the Republic of Ireland between Sinn Féin's leadership and a Royal Family member cannot be understated.
Earl Mountbatten was killed by the IRA whilst boating. Mountbatten was a good man, a great military commander and administrator during the Second World War and the immediate post war years. He was extremely popular in Britain, indeed one of the most popular of the Royals. It is no secret that Prince Charles adored him. His death shattered the Prince and scarred Great Britain.
The photograph of this very public act of reconciliation, with the Prince holding the quintessential symbol of Britain, a cup and saucer of tea, is a lesson to a world desperately in need of reconciliation, peace and dialogue.
It is this mindset that prevents the French, British and many European countries from holding grudges against each other for the manifold wars and injustices they have wreaked upon each other over the centuries. It is the mindset of forgiveness, deeply ingrained in our Judaic Christian values. It combines pragmatism and a genuine desire to forget the past and to get on with the future.
That is why the Western world has trouble coming to terms with the ingrained hatreds and grudges held by some other cultures. The disintegration of the former Yugoslavia was case to point. That peoples in that tragic region could hold centuries old grudges and act out their hatreds in such a brutal manner was impossible to believe. Similarly the current divisions in Islam are beyond the comprehension of most Westerners.
Great Britain has in its history certainly earned its unfortunate sobriquet ‘perfidious Albion’. But no country is free of faults. On the other side of the coin it should also be remembered that the Union Flag has been and remains a potent symbol of stability, tolerance and virtue.
The Prince of Wales, in the best traditions of British statesmanship, has just set an example to the world.