There will be an opportunity to Gift Aid your donation, and/or to direct your gift to the brothers, or sisters or a particular house, after you have completed the final page on PayPal (PayPal account not required).

An Update from Northern Ireland

An Update from Northern Ireland

David Jardine SSF

 David Jardine runs an inter-denominational healing ministry in Northern Ireland, based in Belfast.  Divine Healing Ministries has its office in Townsend Street Presbyterian Church, which is situated beside a gate in one of Belfast’s many peace lines, gates which can be shut to separate Protestant and Roman Catholic communities when tensions are high.  David has also been involved in organising Prayer for Ireland for 25 years.

He gives his perspective on the situation in Northern Ireland at the beginning of 2013, when it seemed for many as though the clock had been turned back.

I think that most people in Northern Ireland were hoping that the street riots in Belfast in December 2012 and January 2013 were a thing of the past.  Certainly for those of us who have been involved in reconciliation for many years it became depressing the longer the riots went on.  Ostensibly it looked as if it was a problem about the flying of the Union flag.  At the beginning of December, Belfast City Council, which now has a nationalist and republican majority, took a decision to fly the Union flag only on designated days instead of every day, which has been the case for more than a century.  Probably most Protestants in Northern Ireland did not agree with this decision.  A small number of them expressed their opposition in a very violent way, while most Protestants were dismayed and embarrassed at these riots.

 

David Jardine standing at the peace line between Shankill Road and Falls Road, opposite the church where Divine Healing Ministries is based.

David Jardine standing at the peace line between Shankill Road and Falls Road, opposite the church where Divine Healing Ministries is based.

Over the weeks of these community disturbances, a debate has been raging in the media over what caused the violence.  There are probably a number of factors.  The Protestant community have always felt that their best interests are served by being part of the United Kingdom.  Catholic aspirations would be much more towards a united Ireland, although a recent poll showed that at least 50% of Catholics are quite happy to remain in Northern Ireland as it now is.  Many Protest-ants feel that the working out of the political solution since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 has not been favourable towards them, that their sense of Britishness is gradually being eroded.  They also feel that the material benefits of the peace process have not been equally shared with them, leaving Protestant working-class areas disadvantaged and deprived.  I believe there is something in these complaints and a number of other grievances, but that the explosion of violence was entirely the wrong way to get something done about them.  I also feel, as a member of the Protestant community, that we could have done much more to help ourselves.  It is obvious that many Protest-ants have found change much more difficult to accept, as we have moved toward a shared society in Northern Ireland.

So where do we go from here? In spite of our recent troubles I still believe that there is real hope for Northern Ireland, provided we stick close to our Christian heritage.  In some ways it is amazing what has been achieved since 1998.  For some years now we have had two groupings, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, diametrically opposed in their political aspirations, sharing power together and maybe doing it better than the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the rest of Britain.

Murals feature on many walls in Belfast, sometimes encouraging peace, at other times invoking violence.  This mural beside Townsend Street Presbyterian Church features a roundabout and either side of it, children skipping or playing on the swings.

Murals feature on many walls in Belfast, sometimes encouraging peace, at other times invoking violence. This mural beside Townsend Street Presbyterian Church features a roundabout and either side of it, children skipping or playing on the swings.

Nonetheless, the two sections of the community need to show a much greater spirit of generosity towards one another.  For Christian people that will involve forgiveness.  My way of forgiving, and it really works, is to ask God to bless anyone who has hurt me, and to keep it up for as long as it takes.  I feel that a percentage of Protestants need to make it a habit to ask God to bless Catholics, and many Catholics need to do the same for Protestants.  During the month of July some parades have been the issue that has sparked off violence.  I am already praying a number of times every day for those parades: asking God to bless those who march, those who protest against them, and those who support both groups.  When we ask God to bless he takes us at our word.  He blesses and changes people.

May I also say that during the disturbances of December and January I can never remember a time when so many people were contacting me, asking me to pray or thanking me for prayer.  This is maybe the real way to deepen healing and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.  In the ministry that I work for, we have organised seven years of prayer for the renewal and revival of the faith in our land.  We have almost completed four years now, and we are asking people to say every day for our country a prayer that was written at a retreat centre in Wales.  May I invite readers to join us in praying this prayer daily for your own country and for Ireland:

O high King of Heaven,

Have mercy on our land.

Revive your Church.

Send the Holy Spirit for the sake of the children.

May your kingdom come to our nation.

In Jesus’ mighty name.   Amen.  f

David Jardine involved in Prayer Ministry

David Jardine involved in Prayer Ministry