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Belfast children unite for Christmas service across religious interface

Children from the Suffolk estate and Lenadoon gather for their Christmas service
Children from the Suffolk estate and Lenadoon gather for their Christmas service

Children from both sides of a once volatile religious interface in Northern Ireland took part in a joint Christmas service last night.

Residents in Belfast's Protestant Suffolk estate joined their close neighbours from the Catholic Lenadoon area to watch the groundbreaking event.

Ahead of the festive show, young and old from both communities carried lanterns along the Stewartstown road — the traditional dividing line and scene of violent clashes in the past.

The highlight of the evening saw local Protestant and Catholic primary school pupils switch on the lights on a new Christmas tree at the interface.

The children then took part in a traditional nativity play.

The event was organised by the Suffolk Lenadoon Interface Group (SLIG) — a community organisation made up of residents from both estates.

Group chair Sean McMahon said he hoped the joint festive service would become an an annual event for the communities.

“While SLIG continues to build relationships between the Suffolk and Lenadoon communities, it is important to acknowledge the achievements of Suffolk and Lenadoon residents as we move towards a shared future,” he said.

“SLIG's staff and management committee continues to innovate and find ways to deliver in a practical and meaningful way our peace-building strategy to create a genuinely shared space in Suffolk/Lenadoon over the next five years.”

SLIG is supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, the International Fund for Ireland's Community Bridges Programme, the Community Relations Council and Belfast City Council's Good Relations Unit.

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