Peace poses `a greater challenge' than Troubles


Peace poses a greater challenge to the churches in Ireland than the "tribal" years of the Troubles, according to the Church of Ireland primate, Dr Robin Eames.

Dr Eames says that how the churches in Ireland face up to the demands of the peace process "will determine the relevance of all our denominations for generations to come."

The challenge is "much greater than that posed by the trauma of 30 years of community suffering," he says, while the transition required will have "far-reaching implication for all the churches of Ireland".

Writing in the "Rite And Reason" column in The Irish Times today, Dr Eames reflects: "As a churchman I am deeply conscious of the role the Irish churches have played, or failed to play, in bringing Ireland to this historic moment."

They have provided pastoral ministry to people in trauma "which is the envy of the Christian world" he says. However, it is one thing to provide a ministry of support and comfort to people when the distinctions of right and wrong are clear "in periods of suffering and terrorism."

But "when a peace process makes special demands on what reconciliation means in actual terms those clearer lines of definition or distinction can become blurred. That is now the real challenge to the Irish church," he says.

He asks whether the churches have the will and the determination to eradicate once and for all any sectarian attitude or practice which exists in their structures.

"Can we at last move Christian witness beyond tribal identification?", he asks.