Northern Ireland: Church leaders 'dismayed' by violence

Church leaders in Northern Ireland have condemned riots in Belfast triggered by the ban of an Orange Order parade on 12 July.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has described attacks on its officers as "animalistic". It reports that more than 70 police officers have been injured in the violence, which continued into a fourth night in parts of the city.

At least 27 officers were hurt as Protestant youths hurled petrol bombs at police lines last night.

Protests were also reported in Newtownabbey, Antrim, Dungannon, Portadown and Londonderry.

In a joint statement, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Bishop of Down & Dromore, and the Bishop of Connor called for talks to restore peace.

"As Christian leaders in Northern Ireland who believe in grace and the building of a peaceful and hopeful future here, we are dismayed by the scenes of violence and disorder which have taken place over the past few days, marring the Twelfth weekend, most notably in parts of North and East Belfast," they said.

"Christian values centre around forgiveness, the valuing of every person, and working for the common good. To raise a hand in anger is to step away from those values. It is also important to stress that it is wholly unacceptable to abuse or endanger the lives of the PSNI in their role in upholding the rule of law.

"We urge people to find new ways of dealing with difficult issues through meaningful engagement. We need to talk now and not leave it too late. We, for our part, are willing to offer help and support to any such sincere processes of mediation and dialogue within our communities."