Church leader slams racist attacks
Published 03/06/2014 | 00:00
The new head of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has called for racist attacks to stop.
Moderator Dr Michael Barry said people should serve others rather than attack them.
In the latest suspected hate crime incident, two Pakistani men - aged 24 and 38 - were injured when they were assaulted at their house at Parkmount Street in Belfast on Sunday afternoon.
Dr Barry condemned the targeting of migrants.
"All such attacks are an affront to us as a democratic and civilized country. That is behaviour that must stop immediately.
"We must never do or say anything that would give the slightest comfort to those who would verbally or physically attack people they do not like.
"We are to treat all people with respect and dignity because they have been created in the image of God."
Dr Barry, minister of the Sandys Street congregation in Newry for the past 28 years, welcomed 1,000 delegates and invited guests at the opening session of the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly.
In his first address he called on the church to reach out to the needy and serve others.
"To be a servant means that we are constantly watching out for the opportunity to serve other people.
"We should be aware of their need and we must be willing to adopt any position in order to meet it.
"We must be willing to sacrifice whether we have or whether we are in order to help them.
"To serve in this way is to care deeply for people. We must show the people outside that we love them more than we love ourselves."
He challenged the audience to reach out beyond the Presbyterian Church in serving others.
The Assembly was also addressed by outgoing Moderator Dr Rob Craig.
He referred to violence in North Belfast last summer and the "dashed hopes" of the Haass political talks at Christmas as events which overshadowed others like the visit of US President Barack Obama to Belfast and the first state visit to the UK by an Irish President.
He warned that society cannot afford to think of its own needs first.
"We can be tempted into that kind of of individualism which is in the air that we breathe, the individualism which insists that life is just about me and what I can get out of it."
The Assembly will meet in Belfast for the next three days.