CHURCH leaders in Enniskillen have issued a joint statement in response to controversial comments made by firebrand pastor James McConnell.
The North Belfast pastor came under criticism from the media and the public when he branded Islam ‘heathen’ and ‘satanic’.
Although he later apologised publicly, First Minister Peter Robinson also came under fire when he said that he would not trust Muslims involved in violence or those devoted to Sharia law, adding that he would, however, ‘trust Muslims to go to the shop’.
And, in last week’s Fermanagh Herald, retired minister, Rev Ivan Foster, formerly of Kilskeery Free Presbyterian Church, and Bethel Free Presbyterian, Enniskillen, said that ‘in general terms’ he agreed with Pastor McConnell’s views on Islam.
This week, nine local church leaders from a range of denominations released a statement in response to ‘regrettable comments about Islam in particular’.
“We reaffirm our commitment to embrace diversity, promote religious freedom and build inclusive communities,” the statement read, “We fully reject racism, sectarianism and violence, and we want to demonstrate respect and welcome to people of all faiths and none in society.”
The statement read that despite fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam: “We believe that such differences must be voiced respectfully and from the point of view of friendship.”
It went on: “We welcome those who come from different parts of the world and varying traditions to live among us.
“Many from this island went abroad to make a new life. Do those who come here with goodwill not deserve from us what we would wish for our own sons and daughters who live and work abroad?
“We rejoice in the positive and significant contributions of different world cultures to our common life, and also the major contributions which individuals from those cultures make to our local community, especially in the fields of health, education and commerce.
“No culture is perfect. In being aware of the shortfalls in freedom and tolerance elsewhere in the world, we acknowledge that we too have fallen short of Scriptural standards. We must seek to rise beyond a culture of criticism to the Christ-like ideals of the Gospels in the way that we treat our neighbours, both new and old.”
The statement was signed by Rt Rev Mgr Peter O’Reilly, Parish Priest Enniskillen and Lisbellaw;
Very Rev Kenneth R J Hall, Rector of St Macartin’s Cathedral and Dean of Clogher (Church of Ireland); Rev Sam McGuffin (Minister, Enniskillen Methodist); Rev David Cupples (Minister, Enniskillen Presbyterian Church); Rev Joe McVeigh, CC, Enniskillen and Lisbellaw; Rev David Donnelly, CC, Enniskillen and Lisbellaw; Rev Raymond Donnelly, CC, Enniskillen and Lisbellaw; Rev Rob Clements curate (Church of Ireland); Rev Brian D’Arcy C.P (Rector), St Gabriel’s Retreat, The Graan.