Interfaith Memorial Service for Freetown Flood Victims in Christ Church Cathedral
Three tragic events in succession have befallen the people of Sierra Leone: civil war, ebola and flooding, the last accompanied by landslides of mud sweeping all before them. Many people have not been found since the landslide and there is great sadness and trauma among the Sierra Leone community in Ireland. They have themselves lost loved ones at home who are among those never to be found. In Sierra Leone it is customary to meet to mourn the dead forty days after their death. September 23rd 2017 was 39 days after The Flood. People from Sierra Leone together with members of the Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership met in Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday morning last (September 23) for an Inter Faith Memorial for Freetown Flood Victims to worship, to seek comfort and blessing and to comfort one another. They were joined by a wide range of members of the public including members of Irish Missionary Orders who had worked in Sierra Leone and wished to pay their respects in this tragedy.
The Mistress of Ceremonies for the Memorial was Ms Amy Bangura. The Archbishop of Dublin presided saying prayers at the beginning and at the end of the service and concluding with a blessing. Other participants included musicians and singers from Sierra Leone, Ms Elizabeth Smith, chairperson of The Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership (you can read her contribution here) and Alan Logan, Head of Chancery, representing the Sierra Leone High Commissioner, Ambassador Edward Mohammed Turay. The Revd Dr Sahr Yambasu, St Patrick’s United Church, Waterford spoke on what brought the congregation together, memorably referring to the place of imagination in the face of tragedy. Fr Augustine Bangalie, chaplain of Rockwell College prayed and led the singing of psalm 129 responsorially. Sister Mary Coleman also led prayers. Imam Sheik Arsalan led prayers in the Islamic tradition. Among the guests was Bishop Robert Ellison of the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia.
Towards the end of the Memorial, members of the Sierra Leonean community distributed pieces of commemorative Gara cloth to all participants in the Service. The Archbishop drew the attention of participants to the icon for The World Meeting of Families 2018 which is in Christ Church Cathedral at this time and linked it to Genesis 28 where the Lord God says to Abraham: ‘All the families of the earth will wish to be blessed as you and your descendants are blessed.’ (Genesis 28.14). He concluded by using A Prayer of The Eastern Church from the Book of Common Prayer which contains the timeless lines: ‘Succour all who are in tribulation, necessity, or distress … For thou art the helper of the helpless, the saviour of the lost, the refuge of the wanderer, the healer of the sick.’