Evangelicals in Dublin condemn the riots of last week. Christians must make a difference as debates around housing prices and migration increase social division, says the leader of the Evangelical Alliance Ireland.
Christians in Ireland have expressed their clear opposition to the violence that erupted in Dublin last week.
Riots unfolded on Thursday 23 November after it was known that a man had stabbed three children and a school assistant outside a primary school. That evening, crowds convened through social media under the hashtag ‘#IrelandIsFull’ took the streets of the city centre with messages against migrants.
Around 300 people threw bottles at the police, destroyed public vehicles and looted shops, causing heavy damage in the city centre.
“The riot is shocking as Dublin is a very peaceful city”, a senior member of an evangelical church in the city told Evangelical Focus the day after.
Several evangelical pastors in the capital of Ireland came together to pray on the morning after the riots.
Authorities described the violence as the worst in modern Ireland, as over 45 people were arrested. A day later, members of Street Pastors Dublin, a ministry serving people outdoors on weekend nights, described the “city slowly returning to its normal”.
Tomás Jenkinson, of Dublin Street Pastors, assessed both the knife attack on children and the riots the same day as part of a spiritual attack in which “the ‘enemy’ is at work against our country”. He helped organise a time of prayer and praise hours later.
From his perspective, “one of the hallmarks” of Satan is “fear and intimidation, and there was a lot of that around on Thursday and Friday”. Two members being trained in his Christian ministry who are from a foreign background were “very fearful” about joining the outdoors activities over the weekend.
“There is a need for us as a Church and as Christians to come together, and pray to call out to our God for his cover of our city”, Jenkinson told Evangelical Focus, quoting Isaiah 59:19.
Nick Park, the director of the Evangelical Alliance Ireland, said “the horrible attack directed at children” had been used by far-right groups that are “opportunistic at seizing on any number of issues to recruit anyone who is disaffected to their cause”.
In a reflection sent to Evangelical Focus, the pastor addressed the fact that in Ireland there is “frustration by people, largely from the lower socio-economic sectors of Irish society”, who feel that their “standards of living have been eroded over recent years by the effects of Covid, rising prices, and a lack of affordable housing”.
“These people have been cynically exploited over a period of time by a small, but vocal far-right element who use conspiracy theories and disinformation on social media to make immigrants scapegoats for all the nation’s problems”, added Park.
A senior member of an evangelical church in Dublin agreed: “The housing crisis clearly affects many, and the authorities are struggling to deal with it”, he said, but this should never “justify attacks” against migrants and asylum seekers using “radical and anti-immigrant” narratives, he continued.
In a context of very emotional debates in society (on issues like abortion, Covid-19 restrictions or gender ideology in schools), Christians should use their words “carefully”, says Nick Park, making sure “that we don’t inadvertently sow disunity and anger that would inflame tensions”.
Believers should also clear in “reject the political extremists on either side and not to allow ourselves to be used by them to speak words of division”.
In Ireland, the latest figures show that 18% of the population was born outside the country. Christian communities can best show how to include people from all backgrounds, since evangelical churches in cities like Dublin are “very diverse” and have an even higher percentage of immigrants.
“Many non-Irish workers support vital public services such as the health and transport services, and are an important part of our communities”, says the church leader in Dublin. “There are many among us who are fleeing war or persecution, including many from Ukraine, and we endeavour to welcome and provide support to them”.
Asked about how to pray for Dublin and Ireland in general, a church member responded:
“Pray for truth to be maintained in love, and for peace to be upheld. Pray for the violent forces to be restrained and be turned to encounter the Prince of Peace. Pray for the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed clearly and in the power of the Holy Spirit to reach the hearts of many at this time”.
In the video embedded below, the leader of the Evangelical Alliance Ireland shares more prayer requests.