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The Word on the Week

Diversity

Census figures revealed this week, of the 5 years to 2011, show an overall increase in the population to 4.5 million.

Interestingly, despite all our faults, there was a 25% increase in the number of people choosing to live here. They come mainly from our neighbours in Europe and reflect the increase of immigration at the end of the boom years.

However the fact is that many stayed here after the “good times” had gone and are reflected in the figure for those born outside of Ireland which is now 766,770. This pluralism has led to a further diversity in religious beliefs with Muslims and Orthodox showing dramatic growth.

Another feature was the “no religion” which is the highest category after Catholic. The latter remain around 90% of the population despite the drop in numbers attending mass prompting one commentator to take the view that the term has more to do with identity than religion.

Sadly the Methodists have halved whilst Baptists did not register on the scale!

The Bible has quite a lot to say about census.

When the tribes of Israel came into the Promised Land the people were numbered so that the land could be fairly divided.

Later during King David’s reign he called for a census. This was known as the sinful census as it came from David’s military ambitions rather than the poll tax authorised in Exodus chapter 30 verse 11 which he had failed to collect!

It was a census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem fulfilling the prophesy Micah made a few hundred years earlier (Micah chapter 5 verses 2/5).

But Christianity burst out from its Jewish roots at the first Pentecost when a diverse crowd responded to the Gospel – “And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia” Acts chapter 2 verses 8/9.

Many responded to St Peter’s message, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ and became followers of the risen Jesus.

In an increasingly diverse world let us pray for another Pentecost which will include Ireland.