A leader of the cross-border Methodist Church in Ireland has urged renewed prayer for peace after news of the shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh, County Tyrone, on Wednesday night.
Three men have been arrested in Northern Ireland in connection with the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, who was attacked at a sports complex in front of his young son.
Speaking to Premier Christian News, Methodist District Superintendent of the North Western District, Rev Dr Stephen Skuce said it was “a reminder of the horrors that we hoped were in the past.”
Police say that when the shooting began, Mr Caldwell ran a short distance and fell to the ground where the attackers continued to fire at him as children ran in terror to get to safety.
Mr Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after the attack.
Rev Skuce said the political vacuum in Northern Ireland caused by a suspension of Stormont government was the context for the shooting: “When you turn away from violence, then you're what you're saying is ‘we haven't agreed on everything, but we're going to sort our problems through the political process’.
"Whenever you refuse to do that, for whatever reason, you're creating a vacuum. You're creating the opportunity for those to say, they'll claim with justification, ‘okay, the political process doesn't work.’
Urging renewed prayers for Northern Ireland and for John Caldwell and family, Rev Skuce described the trauma among the older generation caused by the shooting:
“It will have reminded them of all that they went through, particularly those that served and, and the security forces through the years, often at a high price to themselves or colleagues. They paid a terrible price.
“It'll also come as a real misery to a younger generation who didn't have to live through that. No, we're not a perfect society. But they're looking forward. And this is dragging us back.”
The Archbishops of Armagh, Eamon Martin and John McDowell also issued a joint statement.
"As the Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Armagh, we are united in our condemnation of this abhorrent attack on someone serving our community," they said.
"Regardless of who they think they are, the individuals who planned and carried out this shooting represent a deep seated criminal threat to the health and peace of our society and it is important that we do everything in our power to prevent such things from ever happening again."