Christians pay tribute to Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume

(Photo: SDLP)

Tributes have been paid to John Hume, the Northern Ireland politician who was instrumental in the peace process that brought an end to the Troubles. 

Hume died in a Londonderry nursing home on Monday at the age of 83 after a brief illness. 

He was leader of the Social Democratic Labour Party between 1979 and 2001, and co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble. 

The Primate of All Ireland, the Most Rev John McDowell, said: "Firstly, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies and prayers to John Hume's wife, Pat, and to the wider family. For many people, even looking on at a distance, Pat's care for John, especially over the period of his last illness, was exemplary and inspiring.

"John Hume will be remembered not only as a significant politician in Ireland but also for his unambiguous dedication to making political change happen by purely peaceful means.

"Because of the manner of his approach, this required enormous patience and sympathetic understanding and those of us who are the beneficiaries of his legacy can only regret his passing while, at the same time, being thankful for his gargantuan efforts in the cause of peace and good relations." 

David Smyth, of the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, said he was "hugely indebted" to Hume's contribution to the peace process. 

"He took risks to meet with Sinn Fein and with [party leader] Gerry Adams [when] no one else was willing to do that," he told Premier Christian Radio.

"He took risks ... in the name of relationships [and] because it was the right thing to do." 

The Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, described Hume as "one of the greatest peacemakers and champions of social justice of our time", who would be "remembered as one of the great local and world figures of his generation".

"He dedicated his life to the welfare of this community, at no small cost to himself. His name became a byword for dedication to the cause of peace, whatever the obstacles or criticisms," he said.

"While he strode the world stage, he remained firmly rooted in his local city. It was the specific circumstances that prevailed here in his native city that helped develop his vision for the future. His first-hand experience of injustice and violence and his broad European vision emboldened him to persevere in building bridges and friendships.

"John had spent a few years in seminary discerning whether he had a vocation to become a priest. In many ways he always retained that strong Christian sense of being called to be a peacemaker."

Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister when the peace deal was signed, said: "John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past.

"His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it.

"He was insistent it was possible, tireless in pursuit of it and endlessly creative in seeking ways of making it happen."