Christians urged to join prayer nights over NI abortion laws
A 40-day and 40-night prayer initiative against the liberalisation of Northern Ireland's abortion laws will culminate next week with a special evening of 'repentance and reparation' at a Belfast church.
An advertisement placed in today's Belfast Telegraph urges Christians of all denominations to join the prayer campaign at St Mary's Church in Chapel Lane, the oldest Catholic church in the city.
Organiser Paul MacAree said: "In the face of Northern Ireland's Life crisis and the imposition of liberalised abortion, Christians are coming together to pray for God's mercy on our land."
Abortion was decriminalised here last month after MPs passed a law in Parliament.
The prayer campaign is part of the 'Faith and Life' initiative, which started in 2018 in the run-up to the abortion referendum in the Republic.
Mr MacAree added: "People of faith, people of prayer decided to pray perpetually on top of Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo for 40 days and nights in the run-up to the referendum."
Around 400 people from all parts of the country took part, fasting and praying.
The prayer initiative later spread across the border to Benburb in Co Tyrone.
Mr MacAree explained: "Now we're in Belfast because of this imposition of abortion from Westminster."
The Belfast initiative began on October 7 - the Feast of the Holy Rosary - and will end next Friday.
"We're inviting all Christians, of the broadest possible tradition to come and join us in prayer on behalf of 'the least of these'," he said.
The phrase is taken from St Matthew's Gospel.
Mr MacAree, a freelance TV and radio producer, said that engagement with the campaign in Belfast had been very positive, with high profile speakers such as former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan taking part in the initiative. "These are ordinary people, believers from across the divide in Northern Ireland, speaking and praying from the heart," he added.
"Prayer has been perpetual, in that it hasn't stopped for a moment, and we've people coming from all over the country, Northern Ireland and the Republic, sometimes to pray for 12 hours.
"It's been very encouraging, for we've really been praying for a miracle."
He claimed the prayer initiative has already had a miracle - when Stormont was reopened for one day to discuss the abortion reform proposals.
The first sitting of the Assembly in two-and-a-half years ended in acrimony after a last-minute bid to stop the reform of abortion law was blocked.
In the absence of a devolved Assembly and Executive, Whitehall ministers are now bound to introduce a new system government terminations of pregnancy here.
The new regulations are to be in place by spring 2020.
The 40 days of prayer officially end on November 15, but before that, Mr MacAree said, there will be an evening of repentance and reparation on Monday at 7pm in the historic church. Prayers will be led by Fr Paddy McCafferty.