Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Religious leaders in peace appeal

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Religious leaders in Northern Ireland have urged politicians to reach out to others following weeks of parading-related violence.

Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist clerics gathered at Belfast city hall for a special meeting to discuss how to lower tensions.

Hundreds of police officers have been injured during serious rioting in north and east Belfast with swords, petrol bombs, masonry and scaffolding used as weapons. The Police Federation has called for a six-month ban on parades and the recruitment of 1,000 extra officers.

The spiritual figures issued a joint statement following their meeting.

"We met today to highlight the constructive ongoing work and promote positivity in Belfast. Our aim is to help reduce tensions and promote discussion, dialogue and inter-faith co-operation.

"We are committed to working together to recognise the hurts and the problems felt by communities. We encourage politicians to think imaginatively and generously in reaching out to others."

All-party talks are due to be held this autumn chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass.

Today's meeting was convened by Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O'Muilleoir, who was himself targeted by angry loyalists during a recent park opening. He circulated a prayer for Belfast which he hopes will be embraced by worshippers of all denominations and will be adapted for all faiths.

"While I do not claim to have strong religious affiliations, I recognise that churches are at the coalface of inter community work and are working hard to continue peace building across the city and beyond," he said.

"There is an enormous amount of good work already going on but we need to progress dialogue and do what we can to reduce tension. Whilst this has been a testing summer for all, we are now sending out a united message appealing for calm and an end to violence.

"I am proud of the many good news stories across Belfast with people helping their neighbours and working hard to support reconciliation. We need to shine a spotlight on that positivity and I am pleased to do what I can to promote it."

Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Methodist, Baha'i, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist church leaders agreed to nominate a chaplain to work with the Lord Mayor throughout his one-year term in office.

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