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I grew up in the Protestant community in Northern Ireland, but my first ministry was among the Roman Catholic community in the Republic of Ireland. One evening after preaching in Belfast, I was traveling south when my car broke down on the motorway. It was late at night, the road was dark and it was pelting down with rain. A young couple kindly stopped and offered my wife and me assistance, and drove us to a nearby police station to report that our car was parked on the hard shoulder of the motorway.


Now this was in the dark days of the troubles in Northern Ireland, and people traversing the border between the North & the South were often viewed with suspicion. So when I gave the desk sergeant my number plate his instinct told him I was a Southern Irish Catholic, in all likelihood an Irish Nationalist. He gruffly took the details, allowed me to call a relative for assistance and to wait in the station for help. Half-an hour passed by and that police officer, suspecting we were "the enemy" spoke not one word.


Then the door of the station opened, and another officer entered with a prisoner on tow. The officer was an old school friend of mine and we exchanged greetings and chatted for a moment before he headed off to the cells with his charge. The desk sergeant was intrigued: "How did I know this police officer?" I explained we went to school together. In a divided society that information told him I was Protestant and Unionist. Then he asked why I was driving a car with Republic of Ireland licence number. I told him I was a Baptist minister serving in Dublin.


In an instant the atmosphere changed. "Would you like a cup of tea?" Would you like a newspaper to read while you wait?" How strange it is to be on the receiving end of suspicion and discrimination.

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