Following the terrorist murders in Antrim and Craigavon, churchgoers are being urged to wear a purple ribbon and offer special prayers for ‘our land and our people’ on Sunday March 15.
The leaders of the four main churches in Northern Ireland together with the Irish Council of Churches and Evangelical Alliance, have asked churches to offer the special prayers and are encouraging people to wear a purple ribbon as sign of commitment to working together for good.
The full copy of their pastoral letter reads:
We have all been shocked and hurt by the tragic events of the last few days, with the murders of two young soldiers and a policeman – Sapper Mark Quinsey and Sapper Patrick Azimkar, at Massereene and Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon. Across the community people have been united in anger, sympathy and revulsion, but underlying the raw emotions has been a firm determination not to go back to what we all thought had been left behind.
We offer our sincere sympathy to the families, friends and colleagues of those who have been killed. We also assure those who have been injured of our prayers and continuing concern.
We commend our politicians for their resolute leadership, both in condemnation of the murders and their determination to draw the community together. We also offer our full support to the police service in their challenging work to make our communities safer places to live.
As Church Leaders, and in discussion with others, we are very aware that people want to do more and send a clear unambiguous message that we are one community united against anyone who wants to return to threat and violence rather than democracy and peace as a way forward.
We are therefore asking all our Churches to create opportunities for our people to send out a strong message of hope and determination to move forward together. It is particularly appropriate this Sunday, the closest to St. Patrick's Day, that we offer special prayers for our land and people. Each Church and community will naturally find a different way of doing this – some in the context of their normal services; some by creating special times and space for people to come together; some communities joining together with neighbours from other traditions. We are simply encouraging everyone to do something.
Some themes which may be helpful are:
* Remembering those who have been bereaved and praying for the recovery of those injured.
* Giving thanks for how far we have come as a community.
* Asking for guidance for our politicians and community leaders.
* Giving thanks for the leadership skills of the PSNI and praying that they may carry out their work safely.
* Encouraging people to think and work for a better future and to speak and act for peace.
We are also suggesting that, as a practical sign of our revulsion towards violence and our determination as one community to speak with one voice on this issue, people wear a purple ribbon or other item of purple clothing. Purple is associated with Lenten reflection and is offered as a strong outward symbol of people's commitment to working together for good.
Archbishop Alan Harper – Church of Ireland Primate
Cardinal Seaán Brady – Roman Catholic Primate
Rev Aian Ferguson – Methodist President
Rt Rev Donald Patton – Presbyterian Moderator
Rev Tony Davidson – President of the Irish Council of Churches
Rev Stephen Cave – National Director of Evangelical Alliance NI