Spectre of racism is haunting society, says Presbyterian Rev Donald Watts
The outgoing Clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly, Rev Donald Watts, has totally condemned the sectarianism and racism in Northern Ireland society.
He told the Assembly yesterday: "Sectarianism hasn't gone away you know, and indeed it seems to have increased during the years of the so-called peace process.
"However, even more acutely in the last weeks, the spectre of racism, which is never far below the surface, has come up to haunt this community and disgrace our name before the world."
He condemned "without question" the attacks on the two Pakistani men in north Belfast and said: "Many others in recent weeks must also be condemned without equivocation, but surely we must do more than simply speak out."
Dr Watts revealed that last week he visited the Islamic Centre in Belfast with two senior colleagues.
He said: "We were warmly received, but one of the leaders said that his wife had been a bit uneasy about taking their child to playgroup last week. They said it was a really good playgroup, and as the conversation went on it was evident that the playgroup was run by – guess who – the Presbyterian Church.
"The question for me is this: does our care of that child end when he goes out of the door of the playgroup, or do we not need to do far more than we are currently doing to challenge the attitudes in society that bring fear to others?"
Dr Watts was speaking in a major debate after which the Assembly accepted a move to reorganise the work of its 11 boards into seven councils.