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Violent killing of Christopher Meli not God's will, mourners told

By Amanda Ferguson

The priest officiating at the funeral of a young Belfast man beaten to death in the west of the city earlier this month has told mourners "God did not will this tragedy to happen".

There were moving scenes as father-of-one Christopher Meli (20) was buried yesterday.

Police have said he was the victim of a "sustained and vicious assault" on December 12.

He died after he was attacked by a group of youths in Glasvey Close in the Twinbrook estate.

Mr Meli's coffin was placed in a horse-drawn carriage which arrived at his Sliabh Dubh address, off the Springfield Road yesterday morning ahead of Requiem Mass at the Church of the Annunciation at New Barnsley Green at noon.

A lone piper led the cortege to the church and burial followed at the City Cemetery.

Fr Aidan Denny told mourners: "Nothing can prepare us for something like this.

"Naturally, we ask why it happened. There is a tendency to say it is the will of God, but let us be perfectly clear, God did not will this tragedy to happen."

Last week, three teenagers appeared in court charged with murder and on Sunday detectives revisited the scene to issue a fresh appeal for information.

Ahead of the funeral, Christopher's heartbroken parents - Christy Meli and Vanessa Burke - appealed for no retaliation after a 16-year-old disabled boy and his brother were set upon on Sunday, apparently in revenge for their son's death.

Sinn Fein MLA Jennifer McCann condemned the attack on the brothers in the Colin area of the city and called for "a robust police response to so-called vigilantes before another young person is killed".

Ms McCann also accused republican dissidents of using the killing of Christopher Meli for their own cynical ends.

At a conference at Queen's University, Belfast earlier this month an academic claimed that desensitisation to extreme violence is a legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

At the event to examine paramilitary violence, partly organised by the Children of the Troubles group, Professor Liam Kennedy from the Institute of Irish Studies said there is a "degree of acceptance to dehumanisation over half a century".

The event was held to highlight to scale of paramilitary attacks on young people from disadvantaged areas.

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