After the snow and frost of this week, weather forecasters are predicting sunshine and higher temperatures for Sunday. Unfortunately.
I’m just out of a community meeting in the last 10 minutes where we debated the latest developments in the mess that is Sunday.Bad weather would be very helpful.
Sunday is the homecoming parade in Belfast for troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under normal circumstances it would have been an opportunity mainly for Loyalists to gather, although there are some of the troops from Nationalist backgrounds and from the Republic. But in the way of things here, despite the years of the peace process, this has now escalated to a crisis – and that’s no exaggeration.
Sinn Fein have got permission from the parades commission to hold a protest march which leaves 15 minutes before the armed forces parade and ends in a protest gathering 40 metres from the parade route. This has inflamed loyalism and the PSNI are preparing for numbers along Donegall Place and Chichester St that will compare to the numbers that gathered to protest the Anglo-Irish Agreement in November 2005. Dissident Republicans are also planning an illegal march leaving from the Divis Flats area. Reports say they are intent on taking out a police officer and starting widespread violence. Possibly even getting into Sinn Fein Republicans. Senior police sources are saying this has the potential to derail everything that has been achieved in the past 15 years.
Current assessments are that widespread violence is EXPECTED.
It’s the perfect storm.
What is the role of people of faith here? Because this is the dilemma. To get into the city in time the community forum here is getting the word out to leave at 10.30am and walk in together, reasoning that there is safety in numbers. Big numbers of Protestants in the city though, and many moderate Catholics will be at church services then. Indeed the parade begins at 11.45am, in the middle of church services. Many, I guess, will ignore events and go to worship.
Anyway, if you’re the praying sort, seek the welfare of the City of Belfast this weekend.