Left to right (standing): Dr John Kirkpatrick, Andrew Forster, David Nixon. Seated (left to right) Eamon Martin, John McDowell Church Leaders Group/PA Images
new years message

Irish church leaders voice 'great concern for the state of our fragile peace' on the island

They were speaking in a new year’s message for 2023 which will mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

IRISH CHURCH LEADERS have voiced their “great concern for the state of our fragile peace” on the island.

The leaders of the largest churches in Ireland issued a joint new year’s message for 2023, which will see the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

They described the 1998 peace accord as having “transformed the conflict in Northern Ireland, resulting in countless lives being saved”.

They also expressed their concern for the state of the peace amid a fresh crisis at Stormont where powersharing government has again collapsed.

“The agreement itself transformed the conflict in Northern Ireland, resulting in countless lives being saved,” they said.

“We know that so many continue to live with the pain and trauma inflicted on them and we also recognise that the agreement came at a high price for many, for whom the release of prisoners was, and still is, particularly painful.

Its 25th anniversary comes at a time when we have great concern for the state of our fragile peace on this island and we are more aware than ever that the work of peace is unfinished.

“As individual Christians and as leaders in our respective Christian traditions, we recommit ourselves to continue our work towards a vision of an island of restored relationships, where all can flourish and fully participate in our common life.”

The church leaders also praised the “compassionate and practical” response of people across the island of Ireland as they welcomed those who fled the war in Ukraine and other conflicts around the world.

The statement in the names of the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh, John McDowell and Eamon Martin, Presbyterian Moderator Dr John Kirkpatrick, and the Presidents of the Methodist Church and Irish Council of Churches, David Nixon and Bishop Andrew Forster, also addressed the cost-of-living crisis, stating it had “impacted many areas of life” and had exacerbated “the scandal of homelessness”.

At the same time, “many who have a home find themselves unable to afford to heat it during the cold weather”, they said.

“This simply should not be the case in countries of great wealth, and shows the urgent need for a refocusing of government policies in both jurisdictions to deliver real and meaningful social justice and eliminate poverty across this island,” the church leaders added.

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