If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
The year 2022 has been one of significant trauma and shock for many, on this island, across Europe, and around the world. As the most significant restrictions necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic began to ease, war broke out in Europe with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. When millions of people had to flee their homes there was however an extraordinary compassionate and practical response on our island, north and south, to welcoming and meeting the needs of those who arrived here. However, this has also challenged us all as to our attitudes towards people who have had to flee conflict in other parts of the world. The compassion and care that Christ calls us to offer to the stranger in our midst cannot be conditional on their country of origin or indeed the colour of their skin.
Communities across our island have also experienced a significantly increased cost of living in 2022. This has impacted many areas of life, such as exacerbating the scandal of homelessness and also meaning that many who have a home find themselves unable to afford to heat it during the cold weather. This simply should not be the case in countries of great wealth, and shows the urgent need for a refocusing of government policies in both jurisdictions to deliver real and meaningful social justice and eliminate poverty across this island.
Looking ahead, the year 2023 brings the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement itself transformed the conflict in Northern Ireland, resulting in countless lives being saved. We know that so many continue to live with the pain and trauma inflicted on them and we also recognise that the agreement came at a high price for many, for whom the release of prisoners was, and still is, particularly painful. Its 25th anniversary comes at a time when we have great concern for the state of our fragile peace on this island and we are more aware than ever that the work of peace is unfinished. As individual Christians, and as leaders in our respective Christian traditions, we recommit ourselves to continue our work towards a vision of an island of restored relationships, where all can flourish and fully participate in our common life.
Yet, amidst all that has been in 2022 and all that lies ahead in 2023, as Christians, we have a sure and certain hope of new creation in Christ. Through the miracle of His incarnation, Emmanuel – God with us – came to reconcile us to Himself. In His life, death, resurrection and ascension the Lord Jesus showed us His power to reconcile broken relationships and called us to participate in His ongoing reconciling work in our communities. That remains the task before us in 2023, as we share the Good News of Jesus both in word and deed in our broken and needy world.
Right Reverend Andrew Forster, President of the Irish Council of Churches
Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Most Reverend John McDowell, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland
Most Reverend Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland
Reverend David Nixon, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland