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Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis thumb.jpg
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The Church must help reconcile divisions in NI if Troubles prosecutions end, says Evangelical Alliance

by Heather Preston

The Evangelical Alliance says the Church can help victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles find peace and reconciliation as the Government confirms plans to stop prosecutions linked to the conflict.

The Government has said it will introduce a statute of limitations on criminal incidents that took place prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, despite opposition from all five of the main political parties in Northern Ireland.

The plans would apply to ex-paramilitaries and former members of the security forces.

"The Troubles" refers to the three-decade conflict between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland which saw some 3,600 people killed before a power sharing arrangement was reached in 1998 at Stormont.

Confirming the proposals in the Commons on Wednesday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: "We know that the prospect of the end of criminal prosecutions will be difficult for some to accept and this is not a position we take lightly."

Boris Johnson defended the move at Prime Minister's Questions, saying it would allow Northern Ireland to "draw a line under the Troubles" and "move forward."

The families of victims have said the plans to end pre-1998 prosecutions will "rob" them of justice, a point of view that UK director of the Evangelical Alliance, Peter Lynas appreciates.

Speaking to Premier, he said: "Where do you find truth and justice? What does healing look like for them going forward?"

Lynas said that many people will still be looking for closure and the Church has a role to play in helping people to heal and reconcile.

"We've had a peace process in Northern Ireland, but we haven't really dealt with that truth and reconciliation part. I think we need to pray into what healing and reconciliation looks like, and find ways in which people can seek truth and justice that doesn't involve the courts." 

Lynas encouraged the Church to support people on their journey of grief and help them to reach a place of forgiveness in order to allow healing to take place.

"One of the things we get to hold on to as Christians is that God is a God of justice, and justice will ultimately happen in this life or the next. We've got to hold on to that as well. We're not saying justice is irrelevant, but particularly for people now, that in some shape or form that they can move forward, perhaps be able to offer forgiveness to others, and that'll be part of their journey in the healing process."

The Government wants to pass the legislation in the autumn.

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