COI Gazette – 18th January 2013

Bishop Miller in impassioned peace plea


Bishop Harold MillerIn a statement issued last week in response to violent disturbances in Belfast, the Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, issued an impassioned plea for peace.

He said that recent days had been “tragic and difficult ones in Northern Ireland, and especially in East Belfast”.

Bishop Miller said that many of the protests over a decision of Belfast City Council to fly the Union flag only on designated days on Belfast City Hall, rather than every day of the year, had led to “scenes of violence and mayhem, which have become a regular occurrence, and which have been broadcast throughout the world”.

He continued: “Lying behind all of this is the sense in parts of the loyalist community that they have lost a great deal over the past years, especially in terms of identity, and that has led to a fear of the future being uncertain.



The theme of the 18th to 25th January 2013 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, ‘What does God require of us?’ (Micah 6: 6-8) – originating from an ecumenical group comprising representatives of the Student Christian Movement of India, along with the All India Catholic University Federation and the National Council of Churches in India – is a call to all Christians to reflect on the Churches’ responsibilities in a world of much need, much oppression and much injustice.

The introduction to this year’s Week of Prayer in the material issued by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland makes the context in India clear: “In reflecting on the significance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, they decided that in a context of great injustice to Dalits in India and in the Church, the search for visible unity cannot be disassociated from the dismantling of casteism and the contribution to unity by the poorest of the poor. Casteism results in the Dalits being socially marginalized, politically under-represented, economically exploited and culturally subjugated.

Almost 80% of Indian Christians have a Dalit background.” The Churches have the responsibility of doing the most they can to advocate for justice and to take up the cause of those who have little hope of achieving anything on their own.

The question from the Book of Micah is a favourite text for preachers, perhaps because it is direct and relevant – and, by way of answer, leads to three basic points: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. In addition, what we have in this passage from Micah epitomizes any good mission statement because, as well as being concise, the text is full of verbs: to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. This is not simply theoretical but is a call to practical action that makes a difference for other people.

The ecumenical movement has always sought to give priority to the Churches’ joint response to justice issues. This is part of being faithful in Christian discipleship, because love of God goes hand in hand with love of neighbour, and love of neighbour requires concern and care that go beyonds words only. The Irish Churches are continuing to deepen their ecumenical life and the Churches in Ireland Connecting in Christ grouping, which brings together the Irish Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, provides opportunities for the Churches to witness together and to take action together. As Christians in Ireland pray at this time for yet deeper unity and fellowship, there can also be prayers of thanksgiving for what has been achieved so far in our Irish ecumenical journey.

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