Belfast Telegraph

Mayor’s eight chaplains resolve to calm tensions

By Alf McCreary

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir has made history by appointing eight chaplains from across the religious spectrum for his year of office.

 

Traditionally a Lord Mayor appoints one or two chaplains from the mainstream Christian denominations, but Mr O Muilleoir has broken new ground in his widely inclusive list.

Making the announcement at a reception for senior Church figures in the City Hall yesterday, he said: “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.”

The new chaplains will be drawn from the main Protestant and Catholic denominations, as well as representatives from the Baha’I, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist communities.

They will work with the Lord Mayor throughout his year in office.

Mr O Muilleoir said there was an enormous amount of good work already going on, but more needed to be done to improve dialogue and reduce tension.

“I hope that my chaplains will work with me in building peace, encouraging reconciliation and showing solidarity with those on the margins in our city,” he added.

Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist clerics gathered at Belfast City Hall yesterday 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 spiritual figures issued a joint statement following their meeting.

They said: “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.”

Mr O Muilleoir, who was himself targeted by angry loyalists during a recent park opening, circulated a prayer for Belfast which he hopes will be embraced by worshippers of all denominations.

Factfile

Among those who attended yesterday’s conference were:

Ryushin Paul Haller

Former Presbyterian Moderator Rev Roy Patton

Church of Ireland Bishop Harold Miller

Rabbi David Singer

Sheikh Mohammed El Rashidi

Fr Des Wilson

Methodist minister Rev Harold Agnew

Leigh Byrne of the Baha’i Community

Catholic Bishop Donal McKeown

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