New Vision for Northern Ireland
A clear vision of a shared future has so far eluded Northern Ireland people and politicians alike. Last month’s statement by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister spoke of the peace walls coming down within ten years; the creation of urban villages; shared youth camps and housing. The Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Right Reverend Harold Miller, addressed the Church’s General Synod in Armagh on Northern Ireland’s future and whether it would be a “shared” future or a future where things are “shared out”. Bishop Miller’s talk came just before the Stormont statement. He thought that what it contained was generally good; but, he said, there is an inherent political problem. The two main parties, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin, derive a great deal of their support from single identity communities and it is in the parties’ interest to continue to do so. In the absence of a coherent political vision for a shared future Bishop Miller believes that herein may lie a role for the churches … all the churches.
He told Paul Loughlin that the churches have been part of Northern Ireland’s problem but that relations between them now have never been better. However, he said, if the churches are to join forces in seeking a prophetic vision it must be one that all Northern Irish people of whatever persuasion can buy into. That may mean that churches in the North must be prepared to lose some of their identity and be open to the Holy Spirit through prayer and repentance together.