I want to offer to you, Sean and Anne Trainor and to James, my heartfelt sympathy on the death of your son and brother, Damien. I want to extend to Cecil and Ethel Allen and to their family my sincere sympathy on the death of their son, Philip. I want to assure you of the support of my prayers and of the prayers of thousands of others that God may give to you, and to all who mourn these young men, the strength you need to take you through this terrible tragedy.

Damien and Philip were united in life by friendship and common interests. They were united in death by the bullets of their frenzied killers. Those killers came in the dark of night, their faces masked lest anyone should recognise them and their evil intentions. Their mouths were filled with obscenities, their hearts were filled with hatred and their hands filled with weapons of death and destruction. And now, two families are united in shock, sorrow and devastation. The whole community is united in disbelief, horror and revulsion. Now, hopefully we will all be equally united in our determination to find and accept a settlement that will put an end, once and for all, to atrocities like that of last Tuesday night. Now hopefully we will all be united in the resolve to support the work of the peacemakers, united in our resolution to build peace, a peace that will last.

Damien and Philip were friends in a village that has been described as a model of community relations. Their friendship was built on solid foundations. It was based on their knowledge and respect for each other.

Here people know each other and see the good that is in other people. They recognise the truth that people are equal despite the fact that they profess different religious beliefs and belong to different political traditions. They are a people who are generous enough to afford to each other the freedom to hold these different beliefs and to support those political points of view. The friendship of Philip and Damien was built on the equality of their dignity as human beings, on the truth of their separate identities, on the freedom to be different and on their loyalty to each other at all times.

We gather in the name of the Lord Jesus. “Jesus suffered for you”, is the text of a notice attached to a telegraph pole at a place near Toomebridge where, a few days ago, Dominic Laverty is reported to have almost met the same fate as Damien and Philip suffered earlier this week. Jesus has suffered for you and for me and for all of us. Jesus has died for you and for me and for all of us. But Jesus has risen. Dying he destroyed our death. Rising he restored our life and our hope. The Risen Lord has sent his Spirit among us to remind us of all that Jesus said and did for love of us. The Spirit reminds us that Jesus has said: “You must not kill and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court”. Jesus also said: “Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right. Happy the peacemakers. Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”.

Now we stand at a crossroads. Are we going to travel along the road where the bomb and the bullet are the boss? Where hatred and contempt, death and destruction, get their way? Or are we going to set our sights on and turn towards the road that leads to a genuine peace; a peace built, like the friendship of Damien and Philip, on sure foundations; on the foundations of respect and equality, truth and the freedom to be different. May the Spirit of the Risen Christ give us all the wisdom to choose what is right and the courage to make the changes in our expectations and aspirations which that choice will entail. May the deaths of Philip Allen and Damien Trainor be the last to dishonour this land. They will not have died in vain if we all resolve to work and pray more earnestly for peace. Let us pledge ourselves to make sure that they have not died in vain.