Prayer for Peace in Belfast, Saturday 15 December, 8.30 am, City Hall

cityhall 2Like many citizens of Belfast, I’ve felt helpless about the protests and riots that have scarred the city over the last week.

As local readers of this blog will already know, Belfast City Council’s decision to fly the British flag on select, designated days – in line with policy across the United Kingdom – has sparked a round of violent loyalist protests and death threats against politicians in the Alliance Party.

(Not to be outdone, it seems, by loyalist death threats, dissident republicans have now issued death threats against Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politicians).

Like a number of senior politicians, church leaders have joined the ritual condemnation of the violence and have called for dialogue.

I don’t wish to dismiss these statements out of hand. But in a context in which the influence of churches is rapidly declining in everyday life – and in a context in which the churches have not (in my analysis) seriously and systematically confessed their role in propping up this island’s sectarian system – such statements almost always get dismissed or drowned out in the general clamour.

I’ve argued in some of my recent work that rather than trying to assume moral authority in situations such as we have now, Christians in Northern Ireland would do better to resort to the methods of the humble and powerless. One such method is non-violent, public action.

In that spirit, a group of Christians has organised a prayer for peace for this Saturday, 15 December, at 8.30 am at City Hall. Organisers are distributing this description of the event:

For 2012 the Northern Ireland Tourist Board slogan has been ‘NI 2012 our time our place’. As the body of Christ across the land throughout the last year we have witnessed many examples of the God’s kingdom coming amongst us and we have recognised these words ‘our time our place’ as a prophetic statement and wake-up call for the church. Unfortunately the events of the last week have been disturbing and disappointing to say the least and we really don’t want the year to end like this! With the permission and cooperation of the police we have planned ‘prayer for peace’ at 8.30am on Saturday morning outside Belfast City Hall. We are hoping to form a unbroken chain of people right around the city hall who together will take 5 minutes to pray for our leaders, the city and ultimately for peace in our land. We also feel that this non-threatening and humble prayerful approach would be a wonderful show of church unity and a powerful declaration to the nation of the heart of Christ reflected through His body. We would love as many people as possible to join us and form a wall of prayer around the city hall!

Photo sourced on Flickr by katymcc

2 Responses to Prayer for Peace in Belfast, Saturday 15 December, 8.30 am, City Hall

  1. Caroline Orr December 16, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    I thought that the event was very dignified and powerful. A few friends of mine showed interest but felt excluded by the language used in the description of the event. They would not describe themselves as people of faith but the idea of silent prayer appealed. I wonder if they may have a point here. Perhaps the church needs to look at how it speaks to the wider community? Phrases like” heart of Christ” and words like ” prophetic” sound strange to many people. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Caroline

  2. Gladys Ganiel December 17, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Thanks, Caroline.

    I’ve written some initial reflections on Slugger – http://sluggerotoole.com/2012/12/17/whats-the-point-of-the-peace-rallies/

    but I will address your question more explicitly this week (I hope – last week of term is always insanely busy!)

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