Fifteen years ago the Good Friday Agreement was signed by the majority of political parties in Northern Ireland. It was endorsed in a referendum by 71% of the population and was seen as a historic breakthrough in the peace process, a way of putting 'The Troubles' behind us. In 2006 the St Andrews Agreement was the means of restoring those institutions set up in 1998, the agreement of all the main political parties surely the sign of a new Northern Ireland, one where the violence on the streets would surely be a thing of the past.
Yet the events across Northern Ireland in recent weeks have shown that little has been achieved by these two agreements. Indeed it could be said that the situation is worse now than it has been for several years. So called dissident republican groups continue to target members of the security forces and loyalists have engaged in rioting in recent weeks as a result of the removal of the Union Flag from City Hall. Why are such problems still evident in Northern Ireland society. Loyalists will say that their rioting is provoked by the erosion of their British culture. When republicans riot they will often blame an Orange march. Yet this does not truly answer the question. Why, in such circumstances do people respond with violence. What is the mindset that causes a youth to throw a petrol bomb as their response to a band parade?
The answer to that question is found in the Agreements which form the basis of our government. The very building blocks of the Stormont Assembly are the ignorance and indeed rewarding of sin. Young loyalists and republicans today respond with violence for they have seen that violence pays. Those who have committed that most atrocious of crimes have been elevated to the highest positions of government. These are the role models that many young people have today in Northern Ireland. Such a political situation is contrary to the Word of God, and is the reason why Northern Ireland has not moved forward, but has indeed fallen further away from God, 'for when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn'. Sadly many Christians have contributed to this set of events, and by their inaction have allowed sin to go unpunished and unchallenged.
The blame however does not lie solely with our politicians but also with our church leaders. The Word of God has not been faithfully preached, and no absolute moral standard has been placed before the people. The message of repentance of sin has all but disappeared and the 'thou shalt nots' of the 10 commandments have been replaced with a warm fuzzy vagueness that offends no-one and helps just as few. So called ministers of the gospel have walked in gay pride parades alongside their political counterparts and further contributed to the moral decline across the land. The inclusive ecumenical Northern Ireland which so many of our politicians and church leaders envisage is not the solution but indeed part of the problem. What is truly needed is repentance and a return to the Word of God. With political and church leaders such as we have, little wonder then that Northern Ireland is in the state that it is.
What then is the solution? Is there hope for future? In 2nd Chronicles 7 the Lord spoke to Israel and said 'If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land'. Though God's people had turned away from him to worship false idols, the promise of deliverance remained if they would but return to Jehovah. As Northern Ireland has rejected God it has suffered the consequences, a land once know for it's great gospel heritage has been given up to it's vile affections. Yet the promise of forgiveness and deliverance remains, if only they will turn once again to God. Lord, deliver our land we pray, deliver us from ecumenism and compromise, from apostasy and error. Only then will we truly have peace in our land.