24th May

Respect For All

Respect all people. 1 Peter 2:17

Leaders from Scotland, England and Ireland assembled at a great convention on the plains of Birr in 697 and accepted the Law of Adamnan which guaranteed protection of women, children and other civilians.

Adamnan, whom we remember today, was born into the same royal family as Columba. Abbot of Iona, diplomat, writer, peacemaker, he was respected for his wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures, and near the end of his life he achieved this major advance in social justice.

His mother Ronnat first turned his thoughts towards the plight of women in the seventh century. Then he received divine guidance to make ‘a law in Ireland and Britain for the sake of the mother of each one, because a mother has borne each one, and for the sake of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.’

This law protected women from offences ranging from murder and rape to impugning the good name of a married woman. Penalties were exacted and fines had to be paid to the communities established by Columba which were known to be honest.

This Law came to be known as Cain Adamnain or The Law of the Innocents. The attitude that fuelled this legislation was expressed thus: ‘…great is the sin when anyone kills the one who is mother and sister to Christ’s mother.’ What a contrast to the horrific descriptions of women in war in those days: ‘On one side of her she would carry her bag of provisions, on the other her babe … her husband behind her flogging her on to battle … for at that time it was the head of a woman or her two breasts which were taken as trophies.’

High King, Creator of all
Remind us that every human life is sacred
whether it belongs to a woman in a war-torn land
or to a handicapped person next door
to an unborn infant or a terminally ill patient.
Remind us that whatever a person’s age, race or creed
each individual has been made in your likeness
and Christ has given his all for them.
This makes them precious in your sight.