Irish Methodists welcome IRA peace moves
Sept. 12, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Kathleen LaCamera
Peace can only be built with trust in place, says the Rev. Gary Mason, a Methodist minister in Belfast.
A UMNS Report
By Kathleen LaCamera*
Methodists are waiting for concrete results from recent statements by
the Irish Republican Army, the paramilitary group, regarding the end to
its armed campaign in Northern Ireland.
"The IRA announcement is a very positive move forward and the most
generous response we have had so far," observed the Rev. Jim Rea, former
president of the Irish Methodist Church and superintendent minister of
the Portadown Circuit. "However, it must be backed with actions that are
clearly verifiable, and until this happens, trust will not be
Irish Methodist minister Gary Mason has worked for years in Belfast
communities living with a strong paramilitary presence. Mason said he
was glad to learn of the IRA's July 28 statement that it had ended its
armed struggle, but he echoed Rea's feelings that action is the key to
"If the IRA is genuine about peace, they need to show their enemies a
major act of decommissioning that can be verifiable or they won't be
able to build peace. … That can only be built with trust in place,"
Mason told the United Methodist News Service.
British news media are reporting that the IRA will soon begin
decommissioning its weapons. The Sept. 3 Guardian newspaper, quoting
sources close to the British and Irish governments, said
"decommissioning should be completed within weeks."
In the past, when the IRA put a number of weapons "beyond use," it
required confidentiality from official observers, which left the
observers virtually barred from reporting any meaningful description of
what they had seen.
The Guardian reported that the upcoming process will include not only an
inventory of specific decommissioned weapons but the presence of "two
clergymen, one Protestant and one Catholic, (who) will be invited to
witness the final disarmament process." The two clergy representatives
will be invited to tell the public what they observed.
Within the Protestant Unionist community, people are still wondering why
the IRA did not make this move two or three years ago. Mason said it is
easy to see this latest move as one motivated by self-serving politics.
He believes that bad press from a high-profile bank robbery, pub murder
and terrorist training charges all linked to the IRA in recent months
have contributed to the timing of this latest announcement.
In October, Mason and members of his East Belfast Mission team will
travel to Florida to talk with U.S. United Methodists about the complex
challenges of ministry in Northern Ireland's divided community.
The Rev. Desmond Bain, president of the Irish Methodist Church, said he
too awaits the early reports and verification of complete disarmament as
pledged in the IRA statement.
"I am glad to see a complete end to the IRA's activities and the
commitment to a peace strategy within purely democratic lines," he
He called on members of the Irish Methodist Church to continue to work
and pray for a future in which sectarianism is ended and the hurts, past
and present, are healed.
"Terrorism is no longer acceptable," said Rea, whose seven congregations
lie in an area that has been a flash point for conflict during the
contentious summer Marching Season. "Many of us believe people like
Gerry Adams are sincere in attempting to bring an end to violence, but
they too find it difficult to bring their communities with them." Adams
is a leader of Sinn Fein, the political party affiliated with the IRA.
The Methodist Church has a "positive role" to play by helping the
Protestant community, particularly Unionist politicians, engage with
this latest development in the peace process, according to Rea.
Meanwhile, Protestant riots broke out in Belfast Sept. 10-11, as
paramilitaries and armed mobs fired on police and destroyed property.
Causes cited by news reports included Protestant frustration with the
British government's handling of security concerns and anger at police
for barring a Protestant march near a Catholic area of Belfast.
*LaCamera is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in Manchester, England.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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