Gunpowder, treason, and plot!
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.
On this day in 1605, a young Catholic man who felt persecuted under the successive Protestant governments of Elizabeth I and James VI/I entered a chamber under the House of Lords where earlier a group of his co-conspirators had hidden barrels of gunpowder. His intention was to blow up the Palaces of Westminster whilst King James was in the House of Lords opening Parliament. He was tortured and executed for treason, and in his name we still burn ‘Guys’ on bonfires along with the ironic fireworks to celebrate an explosion that never happened.
This conspiracy had far-reaching consequences. After eighty years of religious turmoil, the Catholic conspiracy added fuel to sectarian rhetoric and fear of Catholics amongst English and Scottish Protestants. When James’ father (Charles I) took the throne and married a French, Catholic princess, it would be one of the major factors that caused the Civil War that was to follow, and the rise of the radical Protestant (or ‘Puritan’), Oliver Cromwell.
We see the echoes of religious persecution and the Gunpowder Plot resonate through the history of the British Isles. Lack of forgiveness fosters resentment that creates conflicts such as that in N. Ireland. Why do we still respond so unforgivingly to threats that appear to come from other cultures and religions?
We have not learned that persecution leads to threat in a vicious cycle, so we see regular articles that accuse young children fleeing Syria of being grown men seeking to infiltrate our country for Daesh. We have not understood that our actions have consequences, so men still shout at women wearing headscarves and veils in the street, and are then shocked when their sons and daughters are able to be coerced into believing that they would be safer in the war zones of Syria, or Iraq.
We have withstood hate crime and persecution in the LGBT+ communities for centuries. (Indeed, one reason James VI/I was so unpopular was his reported bisexuality.) We see our friends forced to return to nations where they are at great risk, and we must be a part of the solution. God will forgive those who persecute us. So must we – seventy times seven times.