I write as a pastor, a victim’s campaigner and a former UDR soldier, all three requiring close contact and community involvement.
Through faith and church life I am shown the compassionate nature of our citizens, through the victim’s sector I am reminded of the brutality and wickedness of mankind, and through engagement with former security force personnel I am confronted with the sense of neglect and loneliness experienced by many.
At present some sections of our community are engaged in I believe the biggest direct engagement of our people since the Good Friday agreement.
As the weeks continue interest grows in the NIO’s legacy consultation, man, woman and child with interest and cause for concern with the Northern Ireland troubles has come forward to let their voices be heard, feeding directly into the process through advocacy organisations such as ourselves.
I am disappointed by the response of our so-called church leaders, over many troubled years clergy from the three main churches stood in homes across this country burying loved ones who had been murdered by terrorists, they couldn’t even engage with Families Research and Policy Unit (FRPU), one of the biggest victims groups in the country.
Not one single leader was available to meet us.
On the other side the Roman Catholic church allowed terrorists to be eulogised and sanitised in so-called Christian service, one with full military honour.
Today it saddens me to hear that some leaders, facilitators and ministers are travelling south to hear the Pope.
Will they discuss reconciliation? A reconciled people? What does reconciliation look like?
We are yet to hear, while they rush south they neglect Northern Ireland victims, the dove has been sent out, it unfortunately hasn’t returned.
Where is the olive branch? True scriptural reconciliation changes hearts and that’s what we need, true heart felt sorrow and repentance for what was visited upon the innocent.
I implore our church leaders to look out beyond the pulpit and the back pew, engage with your flock, hear what victims and grass-roots Protestant believers want.
Articulate their views through the power of the gospel, only then can you seek reconciliation, having sought the views of your collective community who has suffered, are suffering and will suffer unless we deal with the legacy of the past.
Pastor Barrie Halliday, Co Armagh