As Richard Haass arrived in Northern Ireland yesterday to begin chairing talks between the Executive parties, the Orange Order last night took the unusual step of urging its members to pray for the talks.
The US diplomat is to spend most of this week meeting the parties and others — including the Orange — to explore their initial proposals for his talks on finding a solution to parading, the past and flags.
Dr Haass has given parties until September 27 to give him submissions. The talks have a deadline of early December to reach an agreement.
Yesterday, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland released a statement urging its members and “all believing Christians” to pray for the talks.
Among the 10 points for prayer set out in the statement were: “Give thanks for the willingness of Dr Richard Haass to come and facilitate these talks. Pray that he may have the capacity to process several different and often conflicting viewpoints in a short time.
“Pray for representatives of the Orange Institution and other Christians involved in these talks, that they may be granted courage, vigilance, wisdom and clarity of thought.
“Pray that the atmosphere for talks between the various political parties may be positive.
“Pray that the approach of those engaging in the talks may be constructive, rather than merely political point scoring.
“Pray that there might be a willingness to seek genuine cultural accommodation in keeping with a shared future, rather than an attempt to further segregate society, and demonise opponents.
“Pray that there is recognition the Parades Commission is a failed entity, and that any body which replaces it must be fair, transparent and accountable.
“Pray that any attempt to deal with the past would be treated sensitively; would recognise the difference between the perpetrators of violence and the victims of violence; and that the families of innocent victims, including our 337 murdered brethren, would not be re-traumatised.
“Pray for a sense of realism, both practically and politically.
“Pray that progress may be achieved, at least to some degree. Pray that all Christian people would lift their eyes from mere men to the living God and seek His blessing upon this island, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; and also upon the United Kingdom as a whole.”