CRAIGAVON ~ Huddled together in the candlelight as night fell on Wednesday, locals bridged Northern Ireland’s religious divide to pray for peace at the scene of a chilling assassination.
Hundreds of people gathered on a muddy verge in a housing estate in an act of remembrance for police constable Stephen Carroll, lured into the cul-de-sac opposite and executed by dissident paramilitaries bent on reigniting the sectarian feuding that scarred Northern Ireland.
Anglicans, Methodists and Roman Catholics from Craigavon itself and the nearby towns of Portadown and Lurgan stood, sang and prayed together in a bid to come to terms with the murder visited on their community.
“Seeing the news, to see his wife touch the coffin, it was awful, it broke your heart,” said one Catholic woman, who like most local residents in the edgy Craigavon estates, preferred not to be identified.
“It’s simply not right. We don’t need this evil. We moved out of Belfast to get away from all that. Hopefully now enough people will make a stand,” she said.
Unlike the lunchtime vigils held in Northern Ireland’s cities, the nightfall stand in Craigavon was a religious show of unity.
The congregation included older faces who have lived through the worst of “the Troubles”, teenagers in school uniform, children sheltering by their mothers and babies wrapped up against the breeze.
They sang the hymn Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace softly and unaccompanied, and paused in silence to reflect on the horror which unfolded here two nights earlier.
“We are united in our abhorrence,” Father Martin told the crowd.
“We pray that all of us will do our bit here in Craigavon to promote peace and tolerance.”
Sister Myrtle Morrison said: “We need to stand together shoulder to shoulder as local churches, local Christians, young and old and condemn this senseless act.
“We need to work together for peace. Sadly, too many of us know what the alternative is like.
“Positive change in this country will not happen as if by magic.
“This is our prayer tonight: that our land is healed.”
Gentle rain began to fall as the service ended with the Lord’s Prayer and applause.
“We pray that Lord, we would resist every temptation to return to the bitterness that once we knew,” the congregation heard before filtering back into the dark streets, turning away from “those few in our midst who in their perversity think they can progress any aim by the dreadful things that have been done here.”