Ireland/Northern Ireland (MNN) – Brexit has thrown the United Kingdom, comprised of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, into an uneasy unknown. However, one country Brexit is affecting is not part of the United Kingdom: the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland (N.I.) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI) are two separate countries with a shared history on the emerald isle. Learn about the complex history of the British Isles in this short video.
Currently, the United Kingdom is scheduled to take its leave from the European Union on October 31. However, no new progress has been made in negotiation talks to finalize Brexit plans. Find the latest on Brexit here.
The Irish Challenge Brexit Poses
On the emerald isle, Brexit has drudged up concerns for a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, similar to the days of the Troubles. Some fear that a hard border could undo the relative peace which has been in place since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Learn about the Troubles here.
Already the tension has seen an emerging paramilitary group calling itself the New Irish Republican Army (New IRA), which admitted responsibility for the death of journalist Lyra McKee. McKee was shot during a riot in Londonderry last month. Londonderry, also called Derry, is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. It is located close to the ROI border with County Donegal.
“I think that it really stirred up a lot of fear in some ways that we’re going back maybe to something that we had before. For those of us who grew up during the Troubles, it’s the last thing that we want to go back [to]. It was an awful period of time to live through and we have really enjoyed such great peace here in Ireland,” says Alastair Kerr, national director of OM Ireland.
Echos of the Troubles
Along with the Brexit-irritated political divide is a religious divide that is complicating the work of OM Ireland.
“During the Troubles, it was certainly very difficult to share your faith. [Between] the Catholics and Protestants, there was such a big divide… we want to be able to connect with our neighbors [and] be able to share the Gospel with them, and so we don’t want to see any barrier for us to be able to share the Gospel with others,” Kerr explains.
Currently OM Ireland ministers in the south of the Republic of Ireland. Generally, their relationships with locals are good. However, Kerr says Evangelical Christians make up 1 percent of the Republic of Ireland’s population; the Joshua Project reports 1.56 percent of the population are Evangelical Christians. As violence resembling the Troubles has begun stirring, the potential for people to create barriers and become less open the Gospel is growing.
Pray for the Emerald Isle
During this uneasy time, will you pray with and for OM Ireland?
“Our prayer would be that it would still be that openness, that we would actually see the church growing here in Ireland,” Kerr says.
Pray OM Ireland would impact areas in Ireland which have very little evangelical church presence. Ask God to water and grow the seeds of churches the OM team plants.
“If you look at Northern Ireland, there’s a church in every corner. But in the south of Ireland, there [have been] many years without any evangelical presence, and so our heart is just to see the church grow in those areas,” Kerr says.
Kerr mentions things are rapidly changing in Ireland. The country Kerr knew growing up is unrecognizable. As the nation continues to progress, other barriers to the Gospel have begun popping up, too. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult for foreign Christian workers to relocate long-term in Ireland and work with OM. Kerr asks for prayers for Irish leaders “to take responsibility for just reaching out into their own communities” and build relationships, invest in their communities, and share the Gospel.
“They’re the ones who are going to be able to relate best for those around them as well,” Kerr says.
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Header Photo of Lackagh, Ireland by Richard Nolan on Unsplash.