In August, less than a month after the second cease-fire took hold in Northern Ireland, thousands of Presbyterian pastors and lay leaders gathered in Belfast to make a historic public recommitment to peacemaking between Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Michael Cassidy, a South African evangelical influential in producing open elections and the end to apartheid in South Africa, challenged them to a new level of personal responsibility for bringing about reconciliation and tolerance. At his invitation, nearly two-thirds of the 3,000 in the audience stood up to signal their pledge to peacemaking. Earlier this year, the Anglican Church of Ireland took similar steps when its general synod voted to condemn the presence of sectarian views within their denomination and to conduct an inquiry to determine how severe the problem is.
"Many of my friends are now becoming leaders in the movement of reconciliation. Some are working on the commission on marches, some in mediation," says Cecil Kerr, an Anglican priest who founded the Christian Renewal Center, one of several reconciliation groups that minister to the survivors of the sectarian violence, which has been responsible for 3,225 deaths since 1969.
RESTARTING PEACE TALKS: As religious leaders concentrate on personal efforts at reconciliation, official talks began September 15. For the first time since 1921, the British government is allowing Sinn Fein, the political counterpart to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), into multiparty political discussions on the future of the six counties that make up Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland, which was created by partition from the Republic of Ireland 76 years ago.
Ray Burke, Irish foreign minister, called on Northern Ireland's pro-British ...1