After 30 years of bloodshed between Protestants and Catholics, Northern Ireland has taken a leap toward peace. The Protestant Ulster Unionist Ruling Council voted 480-349 on November 27, 1999, to implement the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement and enter a power-sharing government with Sinn Fein, the political party associated with the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Great Britain returned power to Northern Ireland after 25 years of direct governance, and the Irish Republic relinquished its claims to the province. The historic vote creates a new, 10-member ruling body.
The efforts of evangelicals in Northern Ireland have been instrumental in the peace process.
Six years ago when the Belfast-based Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI) first launched "ECONI Sundays," its effort to bring the work of reconciliation inside the church was a modest success. Less than a dozen churches participated in all of Northern Ireland. Since 1969, more than 3,200 people died from sectarian violence, which dates to the seventeenth century.
"Many ministers find it difficult to address the political situation," says David Porter, director of ECONI. "We provide sermon outlines, a Bible-study resource pack, and sermon notes which they can work with."
Today, an average of 65 churches participate each year and a third of all Protestant churches have taken part since 1993. The net effect is that church leaders are taking personal responsibility for the process of reconciliation, not leaving it solely to politicians. "We still have to work at making peace," Porter says.
Reforming The Orange Order?
The peace process has survived despite the yearly marches of the Protestant Orange Order through the Catholic neighborhoods of Northern ...1