Conflict in Northern Ireland erupts onto North American television screens with enigmatic intensity and frequency. The names of hunger-striker Bobby Sands and fundamentalist preacher-politician Ian Paisley are well known. The issues that gave them their prominence are less clearly understood.

Perhaps some North American evangelicals are uneasy about the war in Northern Ireland, sensing that Protestants there share with them common roots of theology and, in the case of the Scots-Irish, of ethnic background. Certainly many North American Catholics acknowledge a commitment to the “green” side of the Ulster conflict and contribute generously to the support of the outlawed Irish Republican Army (IRA). How, if at all, should American evangelicals react? Should they respond with solidarity—or embarrassment—to the situation of their coreligionists across the Atlantic?

Since 1969, more than 25,000 people have been injured, and over 2,100 have died violent deaths in Ulster. This rural province contains a population of only one-and-a-half million, six counties, two medium-sized cities, and covers an area a little larger than Connecticut. In Belfast, 30,000 people relocated their homes in the five years following the onset of violence in 1969 as they sought refuge in Protestant or Catholic residential suburbs. The British government has paid compensation claims totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for bombed property and personal injuries and death. Every week brings continuing news of sectarian assassination of Protestants by the IRA and of horrifying revenge killings. One Western rural area near the frontier with the Irish Republic has currently about 50 unsolved political murders, and the families of isolated Protestant farmers ...

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