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Ecumenical Initiatives on Northern Ireland

 

NI Working Group, Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA)
U.S. Catholic Conference

Inter-Church Committee on NI: The Inter-Church Committee on NI has brought together four representatives each from the U.S. Catholic Conference, the Catholic Bishops of the Armagh Province (which covers NI), the Presbyterian Church, USA, and the Presbyterian Church, Ireland. The ICNI has met annually since 1990 to facilitate closer relations between the four church bodies, to discuss issues of mutual concern related to the conflict in NI, and to support or sponsor worthwhile ecumenical activites.

Churches' Call for Fair Employment and Investment in NI: In January 1994, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic leaders in Ireland and their counterparts in the United States issued a significant joint call for strong fair employment and more investment in NI. This call, which coincides with a statutory review of NI's fair employment law, represents a major step forward in developing common ground across religious lines on the need for renewed and improved efforts to combat historic discrimination and to alleviate double-digit unemployment in a deeply-divided society. 

The Call has been supported by President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister John Major, Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring, and many labor, community and political groups. U.S. groups supporting the Call include: the Congressional Friends of Ireland, the AFL-CIO, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, and the Irish National Caucus. In NI, the Call has been welcomed by representatives of the SDLP and Alliance Parties, the Fair Employment Commission, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, and the Northern Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. 

Review of NI Fair Employment Law: In January 1996, the USCC and the PCUSA co-sponsored a forum in Washington on the U.S. experience with fair employment and long-term poverty for members of the NI Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. SACHR had responsibility for the statutory review of NI's fair employment laws. The USCC and PCUSA also submitted detailed recommendations to SACHR in 1996. 

Speaking Tours: Since 1987, fourteen ecumenical teams from NI have toured U.S. cities to educate Americans about the conflict, particularly the efforts of the churches to promote peace, justice and reconciliation.

Business Education Initiative: The Inter-Church Committee helped initiate and actively supports the Business Education Initiative, begun as a pilot program in 1994 by the NI Employment and Training Agency, with the cooperation of the associations of Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal colleges and universities. In 1996-97, this program brought 150 Catholic and Protestant college students, most from disadvantaged backgrounds, to study business for one year in 90 Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal colleges throughout the United States. In 1997-98, 166 students attended 94 colleges; a similar number is participating this year. This program is funded by the International Fund for Ireland and the NI Employment and Training Agency. The Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopal college associations help recruit colleges, select students, and administer the program. Contact: Duncan Ferguson (502) 569-5606.

Summer Institute in NI: Since 1991, the Inter-Church Committee has sponsored an ecumenical Summer Institute on NI. This biennial tour provides two dozen Americans an in-depth introduction to the conflict in NI through meetings with religious and political leaders, community and labor representatives, academics, and others in the Republic and NI. The next Institute will be in August 1998. Contact: Dr. Marie Hilliard (860) 524-7882. 

Cross-community development and reconciliation programs: With the support of the Inter-Church Committee, $1 million was raised ($500,000 from the Presbyterian Foundation and $500,000 from the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society, Netherlands) for the Small Business Venture Fund, which promotes small business development. The Fund has created more than 140 private-sector jobs since its inception in 1992. In 1991, again with Inter-Church Committee endorsement, the Presbyterian Church, USA, gave a grant of $300,000 for the Townsend Mothers and Toddlers Program, a social service program in a deprived area of Belfast.

Ecumenical Sister Parish Program: With encouragement from the Inter-Church Committee, Catholic and Presbyterian congregations from Long Island have begun an exchange program with Catholic and Presbyterian congregations in Kilrea, NI. 

Information:

John F. Cullinan, S.J.
U.S. Catholic Conference
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017
(202) 541-3445 (ph)
(202) 541-3339 (f) 

Reverend Henry Postel
Presbyterian Church, USA
15120 Turkey Foot Road
Darnestown, MD 20878
(301) 948-9127 (ph)
(301) 948-9135 (f)



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