Start wearing purple for peace, say Northern Ireland church leaders
Protestant and Catholic church leaders urged the people of Northern Ireland today to send out a united message that peace is the only way forward.
Asking everyone to wear purple ribbons in protest at the recent murders, the four main denominations in the region called on congregations to pray together this weekend for an end to violence for good.
Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist leaders have penned a joint letter to their respective clergy asking them to hold special services this Sunday. The Evangelical Alliance has also backed the call.
Roman Catholic Primate Cardinal Sean Brady; Methodist President Rev Aian Ferguson; Archbishop Alan Harper, the Church of Ireland Primate and Presbyterian Moderator Rev Donald Patton met to discuss the killings in Belfast today.
President of the Irish Council of Churches Rev Tony Davison and National Director of Evangelical Alliance NI Rev Stephen Cave also attended the meeting at Presbyterian Church House.
"We have all been shocked and hurt by the tragic events of the last few days, with the murders of two young soldiers and a policeman - Sapper Mark Quinsey and Sapper Patrick Azimkar, at Massereene, and Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon," they said in the pastoral letter.
"Across the community people have been united in anger, sympathy and revulsion, but underlying the raw emotions has been a firm determination not to go back to what we all thought had been left behind.
"We offer our sincere sympathy to the families, friends and colleagues of those who have been killed. We also assure those who have been injured of our prayers and continuing concern."
In the text, the leaders commended local politicians for their leadership in the past few days and gave their full support to the police in their ongoing efforts to find the killers.
"As Church Leaders, and in discussion with others, we are very aware that people want to do more and send a clear unambiguous message that we are one community united against anyone who wants to return to threat and violence rather than democracy and peace as a way forward," they continued.
"We are therefore asking all our Churches to create opportunities for our people to send out a strong message of hope and determination to move forward together.
"It is particularly appropriate this Sunday, the closest to St Patrick's Day, that we offer special prayers for our land and people.
"Each Church and community will naturally find a different way of doing this - some in the context of their normal services; some by creating special times and space for people to come together; some communities joining together with neighbours from other traditions. We are simply encouraging everyone to do something."
They added: "We are also suggesting that, as a practical sign of our revulsion towards violence and our determination as one community to speak with one voice on this issue, people wear a purple ribbon or other item of purple clothing.
"Purple is associated with Lenten reflection and is offered as a strong outward symbol of people's commitment to working together for good."