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Happy Guy Fawkes Day!
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Posted by:Nov 5th 2005, 04:59:00 pm
Fig Tree News Team[Ed. - THe Bahamas and Barbados remain two of the few commonwealth countries to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.]

Bonfires mark 400 years since Gunpowder Plot
Reuters Saturday November 5,

Bonfires mark 400 years since Gunpowder Plot

LONDON (Reuters) - Comparisons with the September 11 attacks on the United States have been invoked as Britain marks the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, in which Catholic conspirators tried to blow up the English parliament.

Every November 5, Britain sets off fireworks, light bonfires and burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators, to celebrate the foiling of the 1605 plot aimed
at killing England's Protestant king and hundreds of dignitaries.

But this year's fourth centenary has led to an outpouring of articles and documentaries, with commentators likening the plotters to the al Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Some, however, have suggested now is the time to end the ritual bonfire night burning of Fawkes as an anachronism.

"The repercussions of the massive explosion (in 1605) would have been even more devastating than the attacks on the Twin Towers in September 2001," said historian Antonia Fraser.

"The Gunpowder Plotters were driven by the exactly the same motivation that drove Mohamed Atta and his fellow hijackers to fly the planes and their terrified passengers into the World Trade Centre," Fraser wrote in the Daily Mail.

The plotters even had an Osama bin Laden figure in Robert Catesby, who provided the money and the organisation for the conspirators, said commentator Philip Johnston.

"The conspirators believed that religion was of primary importance, as do Islamic jihadis today, and that violent insurrection was a legitimate response to a government and society that refused to subscribe to their way of seeing the world," Johnston wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS?

The anniversary comes as Prime Minister Tony Blair's government is struggling to pass fresh counter-terrorism laws after suicide bombings killed 52 people in London in July.

The Gunpowder Plotters were Catholic militants in an age when theirs was a persecuted minority faith in England. Less than a century earlier, King Henry VIII had broken with the Pope and replaced Roman Catholicism with Protestant Anglicanism.

Fawkes was caught on the night of November 4, 1605 with 36 barrels of gunpowder in a vault under the Houses of Parliament, preparing to detonate them the following day when King James I was due to open parliament.

He was tortured on the rack for several days in the Tower of London -- on the direct orders of the king -- before finally confessing. The king's men later killed or captured, tortured and executed many of the 17 others believed to have been directly or indirectly involved.

One of Saturday's biggest gatherings was scheduled at Lewes, southern England, where 150,000 were expected to watch pyrotechnics organised by the town's six bonfire societies.

Organisers in Hexham, northeast England, planned to set light to a specially-built 25-foot high replica of the Houses of Parliament with Fawkes perched on top.

But some have questioned whether a ritual sometimes seen as perpetuating differences between Protestants and Catholics should continue.

"Surely now, 400 years on, he (Fawkes) has suffered enough?" asked Fraser, a Catholic. "By all means 'remember, remember, the fifth of November' but ... on this 400th anniversary, let us exercise a little Christian forgiveness."

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