Pastor calls for a 40-day halt to all paramilitary and drug crime
A north Belfast pastor has called on paramilitary groups to stop their intimidation, threats, punishment beatings and exclusions for 40 days.
Pastor Jack McKee of New Life City Church launched its 39+1 days of positive activities campaign on social media yesterday morning.
He has urged all terrorist organisations as well as drug dealers across Northern Ireland to desist "all negative activities" from February 19 to Good Friday on March 30.
The pastor will be leading Cross walks, Cross vigils and praying for people in a prayer tent between the peace wall gates on Northumberland Street.
He denied his call was naive, saying he hoped the paramilitaries will surprise people by taking part.
"Someone said: 'You're daft for believing that paramilitaries and drug dealers will agree to this'. But we respond by saying: 'No, we're not that daft to believe they will, but we're bold enough to at least ask'! Maybe they will prove us all wrong," he said.
Last month the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the number of paramilitary attacks had risen dramatically in the last four years.
According to figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request to the PSNI, the number of assaults rose from 36 between November 1, 2012 and October 31, 2013 to 71 between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017.
In the same period the number of shootings remained in the mid-20s each year.
Overall, the number of attacks rose from 62 to 95 in the last five years.
Yesterday morning's call for paramilitaries and drug dealers to make Northern Ireland a "better place" was issued via social media, and Pastor McKee said he has already received lots of positive feedback from the wider community. "39+1 calls on all paramilitary groups and members, where it applies, to desist from all negative activity.
"Desist from any intimidation, threats, punishment beatings & exclusions, etc," the message says.
It also addresses drug dealers: "39+1 calls on all drug dealers to stop dealing the hand of death to our young people and others, and to stop selling drugs during 39+1 and beyond.
"I know it's crazy to make such a request, but we're asking nonetheless!"
For more information on the 39+1 campaign, visit the 39+1 page on Facebook.