Churchmen urge politicians to avoid divisive electoral rhetoric
Religious leaders in Northern Ireland have urged politicians here to mind their language in the election campaign in order to help build a better future together.
The President of the Methodist Church, Rev Bill Mullally, said that "in an increasingly uncertain political world, it is unfortunate that the Northern Ireland Assembly has come to the point of being prorogued, thus plunging the people of Northern Ireland into another election so quickly".
He added: "Realising that the political temperature has been raised and that words such as 'brutal' are being used to describe the type of election people can expect, I ask that such language be absent from the vocabulary of any of our political parties."
Rev Mullally put forward five principles that "should be borne in mind by all those standing for election - the restoration of trust; acting generously; accepting responsibility; being accountable, and seeking the common good".
Meanwhile, Church of Ireland Primate and Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke has issued a statement revealing that he has written personally to the leaders of the main parties assuring them of "my prayers at this politically difficult time".
He said that he did not intend to discuss the contents of what were "personal and private" letters. The Archbishop also asked all members of the Church of Ireland "to pray for God's guidance, and to seek to say and do only that which is for the common good of all the people of Northern Ireland".
Peter Lynas, director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "The people of Northern Ireland, influenced by Churches and others, must take the lead in ensuring gracious, truthful and hope-filled conversations during the election period.
"As the election rhetoric begins, we pray that our political leaders will use their words wisely.
"We pray for an election based on issues rather than identity, we pray for grace-filled conversations working towards a more hopeful future.
"We also pray not for a sticking plaster, but for supernatural solutions leading to a society filled with healing, wholeness and life-transforming love."
Padraig O Tuama, leader of the inter-denominational Corrymeela Community, said: "Reconciliation is difficult, but the alternative is worse.
"All the people in this part of Ireland deserve leadership that is creative and envisioned in its hope for a future that is to the betterment of all citizens.
"We call on all politicians to demonstrate gestures of inclusion, and to follow these gestures with action.
"We call on them to speak of the achievements of peace and reconciliation, and ask them to honour those from within and without their party lines, national identities and community affiliations."
Earlier this week the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr Frank Sellar, said "there must be integrity, a commitment to openness, generosity of spirit and co-operation for the common good" as the Assembly poll loomed.
He added: "With an election on the horizon and what are likely to be very difficult negotiations that follow, I call on all involved to show a willingness to listen carefully to each other, to honour and value one another, and to work constructively in partnership."
Dr Sellar added: "The drawing of too many 'lines in the sand' will only thwart progress on resolving the pressing issues that we face as a society."