PCI Vision for Society statement – ‘pursuing a peaceful and just society.’

With the recent visit of President Biden to Northern Ireland, and other events taking place to mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick, has said that “there is still much work to be done in pursuing a ‘peaceful and just society in our day,’” words that are contained in the Church’s Vision for Society Statement.

Received by the all-Ireland denomination’s General Assembly in 2016, the Vision for Society Statement seeks to continue to place peacebuilding firmly at the heart of Christian discipleship and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. This Sunday Dr Kirkpatrick has encouraged his colleagues to consider using the text of the 146-word Statement at services across the Church’s 500-plus congregations.

PCI Vision for Society statement - 'pursuing a peaceful and just society.'

“Much has been written about and reported on that day in 1998 when a political agreement was reached that many saw as ending of the conflict that was known as ‘The Troubles’. Undoubtedly the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and the further progress that has been made since, has left us in a better place today than we were in during those dark days,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.

“As the 1998 agreement is marked, we have seen a visit of the 46th President of the United States last week, and will see a visit of the 42nd this week, as President Clinton arrives. Other civic and government events will also mark this important anniversary, some of which I hope to attend representing Irish Presbyterians from across this island. However, there is much that still needs to be achieved.”

The Moderator continued, “Throughout Scripture God encourages His people to pause and take time to remember and reflect on significant moments in the past. For this reason I have encouraged our congregations to consider taking a short time during this Sunday’s services to reflect on the events of 25 years ago and to do so using the words of our Vision for Society Statement. It is a moment for prayerful remembrance and giving thanks for the progress that has been made since 1998, whilst acknowledging that this anniversary, and the media coverage surrounding it, has been difficult for many.”

“In recent weeks, along with my wife Joan, I have had the privilege to meet with victims and survivors of the conflict, and listen to their testimonies. This was not an easy experience, but has helped me to reflect again on the ongoing pain and the hurt felt by many, and expressed by those we met with. It also reaffirmed to me the need to be sensitive to the needs, hopes and fears of those who have experienced the very worst, having lost loved ones, or still live with the consequences of injury,” he said.

“Even as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, we need to recognise that as a society we have not achieved the full peace and reconciliation we long for. Indeed true peace and ultimate reconciliation will only ever be experienced in the new heaven and new earth that is yet to come. Nonetheless, God, through His Word, urges us to do all we can to build a genuinely peaceful and reconciled society. This is the thrust of PCI’s Vision for Society Statement.”

Dr Kirkpatrick concluded by saying. “In the Book of Proverbs we read, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18). This Sunday is a particular moment in time for us to consider how we, as God’s people, in the words of our Vision for Society Statement, might ‘seek a more reconciled community at peace with each other, where friend and foe, working together for the common good, can experience healing and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

“With the confidence that our primary identity is who we are in relation to Jesus Christ, and with His promised help as we reach out, the gospel compels us to be instruments of grace in our place and in our day because we are convinced grace works.”

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