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Belfast flag protests prompt calls for peace and prayer: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2012 p 5. December 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Politics.
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The Anglican bishops of Belfast have urged calm in the wake of a City Council vote restricting the flying of the Union flag at City Hall.

Last week the City Council voted to restrict the flying of the flag to set days of the week, prompting protests from loyalist groups.  The Police Service of Northern Ireland reported that 34 people had been arrested over the weekend following protests in the city centre. Death threats were also reported to have been made against some members of the council.

On 4 Dec 2012, Bishop Harold Miller of Down and Dromore and Bishop Alan Abernathy of Connor released a statement condemning the “violence which took place in different parts of Belfast last night during and after the meeting of Belfast City Council. Whether we agree with the decision to fly the Union Flag on designated days or not, no one has a right to react in ways which abuse or harm other human beings. The awfulness of the situation was heightened by the beauty of the Christmas lights and market on the other side of the City Hall.”

Bishop Miller also released a statement last week in support of Naomi Long, the Member of Parliament for East Belfast, who was reported to have received death threats.

There can be “no moral justification for such a threat or acts of violence in the name of ‘protest’, however strongly held one’s views are on any symbols of identity or allegiance,” Bishop Miller said on 7 Dec. “ To resort to intimidation and attack is an affront to the high values of democratic freedom within the United Kingdom and to its flag and offers nothing to our society in Northern Ireland.”

The two Anglican bishops said the “vast majority in Northern Ireland want this province to be the kind of place where all people and traditions are respected, and where there is a good future for our children.”

The urged Ulster to take the path of peace and pray that “healing would come into all the fear, bitterness and uncertainty which lies only just below the surface in our society.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.