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.
- Click here to read Methodist President Kenneth Lindsay’s statement
- Click here to read Methodist minister Heather Morris’ expression of concern for Naomi Long
- Click here to read Presbyterian Moderator Roy Patton’s statement
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