article-1293033-0a5ce605000005dc-283_468x665By Liz Hull on 9th July 2010

As a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, David Hamilton’s life was peppered with violence and murder.

He was repeatedly shot, orchestrated bombings and bank robberies, and brought terror to the streets of Northern Ireland.

But after spending years in jail, the 56-year-old has turned his back on his old life and committed himself to peace as a pastor in England.

 New beginning: Former loyalist terrorist David Hamilton has abandoned his life of bombs, guns and armed robbery to become a pastor.

Mr Hamilton yesterday revealed he ‘found God’ while serving an 11-year sentence in the notorious Maze prison and currently presides over a 200-strong congregation at the Heaton Chapel Christian Fellowship near Stockport.

Originally from Belfast, the married father- of-five, who lives in Stockport with his wife, Sharon, said: ‘I went into prison as a terrorist and came out as an evangelist.

‘Now I’ve found a new cause, telling people the good news of Jesus because if the grace of God can reach someone like me, who was in the depths of all kinds of evil, then there’s nothing more powerful.

‘I know that if I’m ever in the wrong place someone would still kill me. There are people that will never forgive you. If they don’t know God, it’s very, very hard.’

Mr Hamilton joined the UVF as a teenager to fight the IRA in his local community.

 Violence: Mr Hamilton clutching an automatic rifle and wearing full combat gear in Belfast in the 1970s
‘I got involved in a street gang,’ he said. ‘I thought the security forces weren’t fighting back against the IRA. I thought we needed to take them by force. We were involved with petrol bombings.

‘We bombed Roman Catholics out of their homes. I got involved in the troubles and I got involved with bombings and murder and bank robberies during the escalation.

‘At the time I thought it was right. I thought it was proper to put Roman Catholics out. I thought it would be much safer if we were all Protestant.’

In 1978 Mr Hamilton, was eventually jailed for 11 years for a series of bombings and bank robberies.

Held in the Maze Prison, where fellow inmates included IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, Mr Hamilton admitted he initially had little interest in practising religion  -  preferring-to smoke the pages of the Bible, rather than read them.

 Jailed: Mr Hamilton was locked away in the notorious H-blocks in the Maze prison outside Lisburn

‘For me being a Protestant was being part of Ulster and nothing to do with religion,’ he said. ‘I had no interest in Christianity, I thought it must be the most boring life ever.

‘You’re not allowed to smoke or drink or chase women or do robberies, it seemed like no life at all.

‘But every cell in prison has a Bible. I liked the Bible because when you’ve no cigarette papers you can smoke the pages of it. I often tell people I smoked Matthew, Mark, Luke and John before I got converted.’

However, when he was later moved to Belfast Prison Mr Hamilton began attending church services and started to believe. ‘I began to look at my life and realised that God had spared my life on numerous occasions,’ he added.

‘Three times I’d been shot and twice I’d been blown up –one was my own bomb explosion. Another time, the IRA tried to shoot me when I was having a meal with my wife in a Chinese restaurant. Two IRA men came in with guns and I managed to escape through the kitchen and they fired two shots, but none hit me.

‘I realised God must be interested in me or he wouldn’t have kept me alive.’

Mr Hamilton, who separated from his first wife, with whom he has two children, began studying the Bible, preaching at church services and helping the prison chaplains.

He was released early in 1983, and married Sharon. The couple had three children and moved to England.

Mr Hamilton spent years running a drug rehabilitation centre in Manchester, before becoming Pastor of the Heaton Chapel Christian Fellowship.


1 Response to “‘I went into prison a terrorist and came out an evangelist’: Former Ulster fighter abandons life of violence after finding God”

  1. 1 Frank

    Great Story.

    Praise Jesus.

    Frank

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