Irish Church leaders have launched the ‘Irish Churches Peace Project’ aimed at promoting good relations, reconciliation and peace work at both strategic and grassroots levels across Northern Ireland and in the border counties.
The project which is partnership involving the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, the Church of Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches was launched today, Friday 27 September at 11.00am in Malone House, Barnett Demesne, Belfast.
The EU PEACE III funded project has nine staff including its director, Keith Hamilton and six regionally based Good Relations officers focussing on Fermanagh and the Border Region, Newry and Mourne, Strabane and the Northwest, Greater Belfast, Craigavon and Armagh, Dungannon and Cookstown.
“ICPP has been set up to promote reconciliation in our communities through the churches working together,” explains Keith Hamilton. “We are working for the transformation of Northern Ireland and the Border Region with the vision to build a peaceful and stable society, with a better and shared future.”
A strong emphasis of ICPP’s work is on being ‘local’ and facilitating churches to impact their communities. Practically this involves helping staff from different churches to strengthen existing positive relations, to access resources and additional support and the development of programmes involving the churches in partnership with others in addressing issues within their communities.
“We are helping local inter-church/cross-community groups to develop new initiatives that will contribute to lasting peace,” adds Keith Hamilton. “In all we do, we try to model positive cross-community co-operation that will help consign sectarian division to the past.”
Launching the project were Church leaders including Presbyterian Moderator Dr Rob Craig, Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Richard Clarke, Archbishop Eamonn Martin representing Cardinal Brady, Methodist President Dr Heather Morris and President of the Irish Council of Churches, Rev Fr Godfrey O’Donnell. Also present were Junior Ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell and Jacqueline Irwin, CEO of the Community Relations Council.
The Irish Churches Peace Project is a £1.3m programme funded through the EU’s PEACE III Programme which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Additional funding is being provided by the Northern Ireland Executive through the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) of the Irish Government.