A year after scenes of rioting disrupted life in Belfast’s Shankill Road, an interdenominational Prayer Walk for continuing peace has taken place.
It followed a lunchtime service in St Matthew’s Parish Church on April 8, attended by clergy and members of different churches across the local community.
The Prayer Service was organised by the Rev Tracey McRoberts, rector of St Matthew’s, and Father Martin Magill, Parish Priest in St John’s, Falls Road.
Tracey said: “Since last year, we have continued to work together, and we wanted to continue to pray into the situation and ask God that things will stay relatively trouble free in the run up to the elections.”
Members of different churches, including St Matthew’s, Shankill Church of God, Youthlink, St John’s Parish and Clonard Monastery, led prayers during the short service, and clergy from the different denominations were in attendance.
A chill wind whipped up the Shankill Road as the group walked down the road, across the peaceline on Lanark Way, and up the Springvale Road to the Farset Hotel, where refreshments were provided.
As they walked, some of the ladies taking part recalled last year’s rioting, which, while some way from their homes, left them choosing to stay indoors rather that get caught up in any trouble.
Stephen Reynolds, pastor of the Church of God, Shankill, said: “Looking back to the events of last year, it breaks your heart. It has been quiet this year so far, and our hope and prayer is that it stays calm.”
Mona Harris, who lives a little further up the road from last year’s trouble, was at the service and Prayer Walk with her brother David. “I wanted to join in with the church and it is good to get to know people from the other side of the community,” she said. “We couldn’t see the rioting last year, but we could hear it.”
Catherine Shoukri and her sister Elizabeth Hughes were both at the service and Prayer Walk. “It is important for all the communities to get to know each other and to realise that everybody is the same,” Catherine said.
Elizabeth said she had attended many peace rallies over several decades. “This is not new for me,” she said. “It is like water dropping on a stone, eventually we make a difference. I do think things are better now.”
She added: “Peace is not just the absence of violence.”