At their March meeting in St. Patrick’s Hall, Portrush, members of the Causeway Coast Peace Group heard an inspiring talk from Fr. Kieran Cray, who lived and worked in South Africa where he was seriously injured in a shooting incident which was part of a robbery.
Fr. Cray told how, as a young priest, he was shocked by news of clerical abuse. He became disillusioned with the Church and decided to take a year out and travel around the world in the hope of recovering his faith in the institution.
On his return, he was asked to go to a poor township in South Africa to take over from a priest who had taken ill. There he came to love the people, but was troubled by the high incidence of HIV/AIDS and felt called to set up a hospice.
He borrowed £100 and enlisted the services of an architect friend to design the hospice, and six retired nurses retrained in palliative care.
The hospice, which opened in July 2004, has since cared for 1500 patients and their families. It is now a five-star medical unit and trains health workers in palliative care. A clinic, a church and a pre-school have also been established.
One night, however, he was awakened by a ring at his door and was confronted by nine men who set upon him. He was badly beaten and shot several times, one bullet narrowly missing his spine.
After various delays and encounters with a doctor who was unable to assist him and an ambulance crew that refused to take him to hospital, he was eventually seen by an Indian doctor who had him admitted to intensive care.
After some months back home in Ireland, he returned to South Africa, but sadly he was attacked again while on a visit to a friend, and suffered from post-traumatic stress and depression.
He is now much better and is working in Ardoyne.
In answer to a question, Fr. Cray said that he forgave the people who shot him; they were criminals and made no pretence of goodness.
What he found harder to forgive was the hypocrisy of the medical people and ambulance crew, who were supposed to be caring and had let him down when he needed them most. He stressed the importance of forgiveness in working for peace in Ireland.
The Chairperson, Carol Anderson, thanking Fr. Cray for his inspirational talk, referred to him as “a walking miracle”. Despite all he had suffered, he had maintained his strong faith and his sense of humour.
Carol reminded those present that the Peace Group outing to the Maiden City has been changed from June 2 to June 9 and there will be a Service of Thanksgiving for ten years of the Peace Group in Ballintoy Parish Church on May 27 at 6.30 p.m. She also informed members that she intends to stand down from the chairmanship at the AGM in May.
The Peace Group wish to thank all those who supported the Lenten Breakfast. Donations amounted to £450, and this sum has been divided equally between Christian Aid and Trocaire.