Belfast prayer event held against plans to liberalise marriage and abortion laws
It was standing room only - with several hundred more left outside - at Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral last night as people turned up in their thousands for a special prayer gathering in response to plans to legalise same-sex marriage and liberalise abortion in Northern Ireland.
The 'For the Soul of the Nation' event, endorsed by leading Christian organisations across the country, pulled together people from all walks of life for the "non-political and interdenominational evening of united prayer".
Same-sex marriage will be legalised and abortion will be decriminalised if a power-sharing Assembly does not return by October 21. And as that deadline looms, event organiser David Legge said Christians in Northern Ireland had been moved to have their voice heard.
"I am in Christian ministry and I move around churches," he said.
"To me, and to the Christian organisations who have been involved in this service, it was clear we all felt a burden to respond to the amendment to the Northern Ireland Formations Bill, which has passed through parliament."
St Anne's was filled to capacity half an hour before the service was due to start and Mr Legge said he was delighted to see the numbers swell.
"There have been petitions, protests and political activities but we felt, as Christians, there was an importance of prayer for God's intervention," he said.
"I'm delighted to see the thousands turn out and sorry we couldn't pack everybody in.
"There's been such a response to this across Northern Ireland, especially through social media and word of mouth.
"There's a real feeling among Christians that this is wrong. Many feel the way this has been passed through Parliament has been undemocratic. Our message is to our Stormont government - they must get back together.
"We need our politicians working for various reasons, not least on the imposition of liberalised abortion on the province.
"We're feeling very aggrieved and there's a need for people here to decide on these matters that affect people living in Northern Ireland.
"Primarily, this is not a political event, this is a prayer event, but obviously the more who come here, the more sentiment can be read that people don't want this.
"People from across denominations are now realising the seriousness of the hour."
The campaign against liberalising abortion laws and legalising same-sex marriage continues with two more events this week.
"On Friday evening at Stormont at 7pm, there will be a silent march which we encourage as many people as possible to take part in," said Mr Legge.
"Then on Saturday there is the March For Their Lives to Custom House Square. As you can see by the numbers who have turned out here tonight, there is a lot of support for what Christians in Northern Ireland believe in.
"We'll be praying for government, we'll be praying for compassion.
"We're not against anyone in our community or society. We want to bless everyone, but we will pray according to our Christian convictions about the bill itself. We're standing together and praying together and there's a real depth of feeling on these issues which needs to be heard."
Among the Christian organisations involved in the evening were CARE in Northern Ireland, Christian Medical Fellowship, CVM Ireland, Divine Healing Ministries, Drop Inn Ministries, Ellel Ministries Ireland, Evangelical Alliance NI, Healing the Land, House of Prayer Ireland, Stauros, Transformations Ireland and 24/7 Prayer Ireland.