If you’ve been following the news recently, wherever you live, you’ll have witnessed disturbing scenes from Belfast. For the last several weeks, loyalist supporters have been protesting against a decision by the City Council to fly the British flag at Belfast City Hall on designated days only, rather than every day of the year. Some of these protests have resulted in rioting and violence across the city and surrounding towns, with children as young as 10 involved in attacking police.
In spite of the bad news being reported, a group of young leaders in their 20s and 30s have been leading hundreds to pray for the city. Andrew Masters, 27, lives near Belfast and is part of an Innovista Leadership Collaborative for young Irish leaders.
“My friends and I had a conversation on a Monday night about what was happening and the next day I was in the Police Chief Constable’s office proposing an idea.”
So in the midst of protestors, police and politicians, Andrew and his friends encouraged people to link arms around the point of contention, Belfast City Hall, and pray for peace. On a cold Saturday morning, hundreds turned out.
And their prayers were heard.
Andrew says, “We had been told by the police that they were expecting huge trouble that afternoon. But for some reason, tensions eased, and it never materialised.”
Reporting on the event were some members of the local media. One of them came up to Andrew to tell him, “This city would be a completely different place if everyone was like you guys.”
Trouble in the city has not gone away. 29 police officers were injured last weekend in rioting, as political leaders fail to calm tensions.
This city would be a completely different place if everyone was like you guys.
On radio phone-ins, in newspapers, and in coffee shops and living rooms, local people are calling for leaders to demonstrate positive influence. “I haven’t heard so much leadership rhetoric in Northern Ireland in my lifetime,” says Andrew.
Andrew and his friends continue to display positive leadership in a time of crisis.
Taking Proverbs 11:11 which says ‘By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,’ Andrew and others have been inviting local Christians and churches to take a few moments at 11:11 each morning and evening to pray and speak blessing over the city and its leaders.
The public act of prayer at Belfast City Hall last month and the continuing 11:11 prayer initiative are not just mere gestures in the face of a hopeless situation… They are the very germ of hope itself – David Campton (Church leader in Belfast)
This week he received a phone call from the Police Chief Constable’s Assistant to say how overwhelmed police officers were that people were being led to pray for the situation.
Sam Moore, Director of Innovista in Ireland, says, “I’m excited by the impact young leaders like Andrew are having as they step up to live out the gospel and serve their communities. It’s a real privilege to work with Andrew and others like him as together we pioneer mission that serves our context here in Ireland – North and South.”
Andrew leads the team at What Now, a network of young leaders from across Ireland passionate about Jesus and the future. He is part of Innovista’s Dublin Leadership Collaborative and will be sharing with the Collaborative later this Saturday on how to change culture in your team. “The quality of the facilitators and contributors at Innovista’s Leadership Collaborative have been excellent,” says Andrew. “The highlights for me have been the peer to peer learning as we discuss, disagree and learn together as leaders involved in local mission.”