Churches launch peace initiative in Northern Ireland

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.

Church leaders in Northern Ireland have joined forces for a new £1.3m peace project to promote reconciliation in a region still troubled by sectarian violence.

The Irish Churches Peace Project is a partnership between the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, the Church of Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches, reports the Anglican Communion News Service.

Together, they will work for peace at grassroots and national levels in Northern Ireland and the border counties.

A team of nine staff has been appointed to coordinate the work with funding from the EU PEACE III programme, which exists to foster peace in Northern Ireland.

The team includes director Keith Hamilton and six Good Relations officers who will focus 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," said Mr 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."

The emphasis is on locally based work and helping churches to develop programmes in partnership others that address issues within their communities.

"We are helping local inter-church/cross-community groups to develop new initiatives that will contribute to lasting peace," Mr Hamilton added.

"In all we do, we try to model positive cross-community co-operation that will help consign sectarian division to the past."