LEADERS of the main
Reformed Churches in Northern Ireland have condemned the Loyalist
rioting in Belfast which has resulted in injuries and death threats
to police officers and one serving politician.
The riots, sparked last
month by the decision of Belfast City Council to limit the flying
of the Union flag over the City Hall to 15 specified dates a year,
have resulted in widespread damage to property, as well as having
serious implications for the local economy before and after
Christmas. Business figures say it has harmed the image of the
province for inward overseas investment.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt
Baggott said on Monday that individual members of the UVF were
orchestrating violence that involved teenagers as young as 13 years
old, and were blighting the lives and futures of many.
The Church of Ireland
Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, said that
the events left the people of the city with a deep sense of
foreboding for 2013. "It is so sad to see images of division and
sectarianism yet again projected to the world.
"Part of the reason we
find ourselves in this dangerous time is that we have not really
managed to agree a shared future together where all have a place,
all cultures are respected, victims are honoured, and we can
rejoice in what different communities have to bring to the common
"It is more than urgent
for this matter to be progressed at Stormont, and the focus on a
shared future needs to be given absolute priority by all of us.
Otherwise, a dangerous vacuum is created which paramilitarism can
fill, when underlying, and usually hidden, tensions are brought to
In the light of the recent violence, Bishop Miller asked "all of
our Christian brothers and sisters, wherever they are, to pray for
us: for wisdom for the Churches in what they say and live; for the
grace of God to extend even to those intent on destruction."