‘Paramilitaries have had their day’: Shankill pastor

Pastor Jack McKee from New Life City Church in Belfast  at  the launch of 39+1 near Twadell Peace camp in 2014.  Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pastor Jack McKee from New Life City Church in Belfast at the launch of 39+1 near Twadell Peace camp in 2014. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A church pastor in the Shankill area of Belfast has issued a plea to paramilitaries and drug dealers to stop inflicting their criminal behaviour on the community.

Prayer vigils and walks of Christian witness are among a range of events planned to mark the 25th anniversary of the New Life City Church – with a special emphasis on the need for a society free from “intimidation, threats, punishment beatings and exclusions”.

Pastor Jack McKee said the church plans 40 days of “positive activities” between February 19 and March 30, made up of 39 days of worship and one “special” day to end the initiative on Good Friday.

“Most people believe that paramilitarism has had its day and it should now go away,” he said

“Both communities now recognise that when it comes to any residue of paramilitarism, that those communities themselves are more likely to suffer as a result of their existence than anyone else.”

Pastor McKee added: “How do you deal with criminality, even in other major cities, whether it’s London, New York or Chicago? The fact is that people within a community, those who live there and work there, find it difficult to speak out because their lives are then put at risk.”