Irish Evangelicals Urge Christians to Maintain Peace Amid Belfast Violence

Evangelicals in Northern Ireland have urged Christians to take seriously their responsibility to live in peace in the midst of the continuing violence in the streets at the capital city of Belfast over the last week.

Stephen Cave, General Secretary of Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland (EAI), said in a statement released on Tuesday that "We are simply appalled at the continuing violence in the streets, and ashamed that some who share our evangelical faith will not condemn it. As an Alliance, we condemn this behavior unequivocally."

According a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the week-long violence in Belfast was initiated by the Protestant loyalists, who want to maintain Northern Ireland’s links to Britain. AFP reported the clashes erupted on Saturday, Sept. 10, over a ban on a parade through Roman Catholic areas.

In response to the ban, many Protestant loyalists took to the streets, attacking the police with paint bombs, pipe bombs, petrol bombs and paving stones. More than 80 officers have been wounded since the weekend, the report added.

EAI’s General Secretary denounced the Protestant loyalists, stating, "The Orange Order, which on its website claims to be Christ-centered, Bible-based and Church-grounded, has surely moved far from these roots when it calls people on to the streets knowing in all probability that would lead to civil unrest."

"It is unacceptable that the Order has been slow to speak out or unequivocally condemn the violence that ensued, particularly that perpetrated by its own members," Cave added.

According the EAI statement, "The Alliance also emphasized that churches and Christian organizations must take seriously their responsibility to call those within their membership and congregations to live at peace with one another and show proper respect for everyone, even those with whom they may disagree."

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), the Right Rev David Lacy, also condemned the behavior of rioters. He echoed that their actions had "not the faintest justification in the Christianity or Protestantism which they claim to espouse."

Rev Lacy welcomed the slow reconciliation process between Protestants and Catholics and Northern Ireland, and said "what Ireland’s historic political disputes are manifestly not about, however, is the peaceful message of the Gospel which both Protestants and Catholics share."

On the other hand, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland Dr Harry Uprichard, was appalled by the rioting, and urged all those who involved in the violence "should use only peaceful and lawful methods to create a climate in which the many concerns and worries about freedom to express culture, to achieve justice and equality and about human rights can be dealt with constructively."

Currently, Youth for Christ Northern Ireland, a member organization of the EAI, has responded to the call of the EAI to make peace. It has set up "The Blue Houses," a safe meeting place in the heart of Ballysillan, North Belfast, an area particularly disadvantaged by sectarian conflict over the past 30 years.

"The Blue Houses" project aims to meet the physical, material, emotional and spiritual needs of the community.