Clerics unite in appeal to stop violence on Northern Ireland’s streets

Rebecca Black, PA
·3-min read

Clergy from across Northern Ireland’s traditional dividing lines have put on a demonstration of unity to urge an end to the recent violence.

After a week of disorder across the region which has left 74 police officers injured, a Catholic and a Church of Ireland bishop were among those who came together for an ecumenical service before walking together to the peace wall gate at the centre of the latest clashes.

There was a silent pause at the start of proceedings to acknowledge the death of Prince Philip.

Northern Ireland unrest
Members of the clergy leave Forthspring (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Rev Colin Duncan, of Shankill and Woodvale Methodist Church, welcomed those gathered as coming from different denominations but with a “common heart” and “common concern” at recent events.

“Here we are together and we’re here to give a show of unity that together we are making a stand and a voice against the violence that we’re seeing on the streets, a violence that serves no practical function or purpose at all,” he said.

“We are coming together to show that we along with others are taking a united stand against the violence we are seeing on the streets.”

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Readings and prayers were heard from a range of clergy including the Rev Tracey McRoberts, rector of St Matthew’s Church in Woodvale, Father Tony Devlin from St Paul’s Church on the Falls Road, Pastor Gordon McDade of Soul Space, Father Martin Graham of St Peter’s Cathedral on the Falls Road and Rev Jack Lambe of Townsend Street Presbyterian Church.

The clergy walked together from Forthspring Inter Community Group on the Springfield Road just hours after chaotic scenes in a Republican area of youths throwing petrol bombs, fireworks and missiles at police, the short distance to the peace wall gates at Lanark Way where Wednesday night saw violence from Loyalists, including setting the gates on fire.

Catholic Bishop Noel Treanor described the act as “a contribution on the part of us as church leaders to the local clergy who have been on the streets during these events”.

“It is an expression of our common Christian faith and our citizenship as Christians who at all times wish to promote understanding, peace, co-operation and solidarity, and to promote dialogue as well as the only way to address issues which are of concern to either the entire community or parts of the community,” he said.

Northern Ireland unrest
Members of the clergy at the peace gates on Lanark Way (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We as Christians wish to serve each part of the community because when one part suffers, we all suffer and it is our hope that this event and manifestation of Christian prayerful togetherness will inspire young people to realise that destruction is pointless. Coming together for dialogue and for prayer is ultimately the only way to bring mutual understanding, peace and justice.”

Church of Ireland Bishop George Davidson added: “Churches on the ground in this part of the world and right throughout the province where there have been various situations, they are our communities… and we simply want to encourage the local Christian communities to play their part and to seek to be what influence they can be.”