The evils of religious and racial discrimination were referred to by the Right Reverend Dr Austin Alfred Fulton at a service in the Assembly Hall in June 1960 after his installation as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, reported the News Letter.
Dr Fulton said that the situation of the African, “hustled out of the Stone Age into the Nuclear Age and living closely with men of a different background of culture, habit and achievement”, could only be resolved “cautiously and with sympathy towards all”.
He said that the South African situation was neither “simple nor easily resolved”. He said: “There cannot, however, be any monopoly of first class humanity for some of the human race and a lesser degree of humanity imposed upon the rest.”
He declared: “It is different and utterly evil to decree rigid segregation and permanent power concentrated in the hands of one group.”
Dr Fulton, who based his address on the witness of the Church in Ireland and beyond, commented on the “demoniacal evils threatening the Christian movement”. These he described as denials of religious liberty, limitations placed upon the church and policies aimed at her elimination.
“These are facts of history and the life of today,” he said. “They could happen again, especially in a world where non-Christian populations grow more quickly than the Christian. The weather forecast for most of the churches served by the missionary enterprise is violent seas and cyclonic storm.”
In this context church union was an urgent issue, argued Dr Fulton. He said: “A church divided into competing and sometimes hostile camps cannot face her task.
“Denominations by the score at home, by the century in America, and reaching a numerical millennium in Africa imperilled the Christian movement.
“The fault belongs to all and the hope that the church in north India will receive some assurance that the Assembly will not exert pressures to compel their theological or ecclesiastical decisions.”
Referring to “the alarming tragedy of death on the roads”, Dr Fulton welcomed the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs to tackle “this grave matter energetically and to arouse the conscience of the people”.
Turning to IRA terrorism, Dr Fulton expressed the wish that the conscience of all Irishmen could be effectively aroused concerning this ‘”fanatical travesty of patriotism”, and he went on to praise the “mature restraint” of the people of Northern Ireland in the face of “sore provocation”.
He warned of “dangerous trends of thought” and that Presbyterians must to all they can to oppose such thought.
He remarked: “We have heard, for example, the amazing suggestion that civil and religious liberty means such for Protestants only. This is as evil a suggestion as that freedom of religion in Roman Catholic countries should be for Roman Catholics only.”
Dr Fulton said that discrimination against a man on grounds of religion was to him as reprehensible in Dublin as in Delhi and was no worse in Bombay than in Belfast.
He commented: “When a Christian is dismissed that a Hindu may get his job we readily see the wrong that is done.
“When in a Roman Catholic country a Protestant is dismissed so that a Roman Catholic may get his job we have no doubts about the wrong that is done. It is no whit different should a Roman Catholic be deprived of the means of livelihood on religious grounds.
“On such action the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit cannot be invoked, and against such heretical attitudes and actions we must set our face.”
Dr Fulton also spoke of the “steady and pervasive propaganda” which was easing the road to alcoholism and the acceptances of sexual promiscuity. This, he said, was largely a manifestation of that underlying despair which had overtaken men when they abandoned faith, lost hope and turned away from the way of love – “the fate of man estranged from God”.
Dr Fulton said the church’s stewardship campaigns were “both thrilling and successful” but a great danger accompanied their great opportunity. “If stewardship is merely a more efficient mode of congregational finance its spirit would run into the sand,” he said, adding: “It will provide organs and halls and equipment and mark the death of the spirit.”
Commenting that the response to Refugee Year had already made a vast difference to the many who lacked home, shelter, warm clothes and proper food, Dr Fulton said it should be remembered that the church in India faced chronic refugee conditions, that their overpopulation and permanent starvation commanded compassion. In this false motives should be avoided.
He said: “We must never give in order to obtain power, influence or prestige, but neither may we withhold the gift because there may be danger in the giving.”
In his closing address, the outgoing Moderator, the Right Reverend Dr Thomas Alexander Byers Smyth called for a greater interest in dealing with the problems of modern youth.
He said: “There is a need for those who teach and lead their organisations to have the best possible training.
Dr Smyth warned that there was a danger in thinking that in providing more adequate facilities for youth work they were doing all for their young people that was needed.
He said: “More is required than the provision of accommodation for recreational activities. We need to ask what progress we are making in the battle for the teenage mind.”
‘World increasingly conditioned by machines’ – world famous mountaineer
Sir John Hunt, the leader of the successful Everest expedition, speaking to pupils at Portora Royal School Speech Day in June 1960, where he was the guest of honour, said the world was living in a world “increasingly conditioned by machines”.
Men had always used their initiative and genius mainly to make life easier and pleasanter for themselves and in a certain sense they had succeeded amazingly well, he remarked. They had only to study the progress of locomotion, aviation heating, and light in the past five years to realise that the miracles achieved and the benefits bestowed were simply terrific.
He added that they were now beginning to “watch the dream of the exploration” of the universe by machines.
He said: “It is indeed a stimulating exciting world to be looking at from every viewpoint before we step out into it at some point or another.
“Like going to the theatre to watch a play it is not the scenery and the stage effects which should be studied and enjoyed so much as the drama itself and the people who played the parts.”
Sir John continued: “As adolescents you are entitled to be fairly critical of the human drama played by your elders so badly, but on the condition that when you go on the stage you try to play your parts better than we see our elders doing today.”
“If, then, on this condition you looked at what men were doing in this material garden of Eden, I think you will be justified in saying it is a disappointing show. If you read the news it will probably be about the latest scientific discovery or technological achievement, the latest dispute in industry or between statesmen of the world or between individual people.
“I wonder if you have ever thought of this contradictory state of affairs. It is the contrast between the decor and the performance.”
He noted that there was a “thrilling background” of a Soviet rocket striking the moon, of another circumnavigating it, of yet another the size of a big lorry circling the earth every 90 minutes, and another, an American one, zooming millions of miles into outer space.
He asked: “What is the point of all this display of fireworks unless man is going to learn to live peaceably together and actively co-operate in this planet? What is the good of having a wonderful stage show with a feeble and foolish cast of actors?”