I heard through the grapevine today of the death of Father Alec Reid. Alec Reid was an early example to me of the tremendoes bravery and courage it takes to be a peacemaker. It is an unfortunate stereotype that those devoted to peace are naive hippies with no sense of the horrors of the “real world”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In one of the most iconic images of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, Father Reid is pictured over the brutalized body of a British officer administering Last Rites. The two British Corporals were killed by the Provisional IRA after they accidentally drove into a Republican funeral. The two men were dragged from their car, beaten and shot. Father Reid, disgusted by the killings, made a stand for sanity and compassion by publically praying over their bodies, and risking his life in the process.
Speaking of that moment he says:
I decided that I would go stand outside the gate. And when they brought them out, in the public, I was going to challenge, and if they tried to take them away I was going to insist that I go with them. Because I knew people in the funeral, especially one; and if I could have got him, he would have rescued them. . . And I remember saying to myself, ‘This is not the way for us to be doing our business.’
A holy man, standing before his own people, advocating for compassion against their enemies is *not* the act of a naive man. This was a public act that could very well have gotten him killed. It is, in fact, the act of a man imbued with a powerful blend of strength and innocence. Men like Father Reid always make me smile when I hear fellow pagans or Druids mock Christians for “not walking their walk”. The kind of courage that Father Reid exemplified is rare in any spiritual tradition.
Alec Reid acted secretly as an emisary between the republican movement and the SDLP, was one of the witnesses of the destruction of the weapons stockpile of the IRA, and even participated in talks with the Basque nationalists in Spain. Father Reid lived a life devoted to the belief that peace, communication, and understanding are the only way forward.
I will be lighting a candle tonight for Father Reid, and even though I am inspired by a totally different religious tradition from his own country, I look upon him as an example of what it means to live the life of a true Druid. God bless you Father Reid and all you did for so many people in pain.
For those of you interested in more information on Father Reid check out this excellent minitary on YouTube and the article by the BBC about his life and death: