Local politicians, academics, principals and community representatives took part in a lively debate with students to ‘Discover an Inter-Cultural Northern Ireland’ last week.
The debate, organised by the North West Migrant’s Forum at their base in Fountain Street, was a continuation of their ‘Discover an Inter-Cultural NI’ project.
The debate focused on social issues which impact on people of minority ethnic communities and pupils in the North West area.
Topics debated included hate crime and racism, racial bullying in schools, community tensions, integration of minority ethnic groups, culture and welcoming of communities throughout the North West region.
Young people, who challenged the political and community leaders present to develop and support the integration of minority ethnic communities across the council area, led the debate.
Supported by the Community Relations Council and The Executive Office (Central Good Relations Fund), the event was a follow on from a number of intercultural activities over the past number of weeks involving 26 young people from seven different schools across the council area.
These events examined and discussed interaction of cultures, deepening of relations between nationalities and religions, and promoting through dialogue, a strengthening of understanding, tolerance, solidarity, acceptance and a sense of belonging among people in Northern Ireland from all walks of life.
Workshops were held earlier in the year at numerous schools across the council Area, culminating in St. Mary’s College, Lisneal College, St. Joseph’s, Oakgrove Integrated College, St. Columb’s College, St. Cecilia’s College and Lumen Christi College taking part in the debate.
Lilian Seenoi, Director of Programme at NWMF, commented after Friday’s event: “I am very encouraged to see so many people from all walks of life engage in discussions about the real issues that impact on people of minority ethnic communities in the North West area.
“I am indeed proud of the young people who stood up and expressed different views and solutions to tackling these issues with the leaders in our communities.”
The debate highlighted a strong positive momentum from young people with the intention of advocating for an Intercultural Northern Ireland.
“Young people are the writers of history books of tomorrow and it is critical that we continue to engage, hold discussions and make their voices heard, said Lilian.
“The North West Migrants Forum strongly believe that it takes the whole of society to build a strong, safer and a shared community.
“We must make it our business to actively participate in discussions and create space for everyone in society to play their part in bringing about real change. That means respecting acknowledging and accepting diversity as a strength and not a weakness for our society to grow and develop,” concluded the programme director.
Praising those who took part and those who attended Friday’s event, Martine Mulhern, principal of St. Cecilia’s College said: ‘What a fabulous evening that provided an excellent opportunity for young people to express their opinions and to challenge the adult members of the panel to create a shared, safe future for all. Hats off to all!’
Meanwhile, Ashley Donaghey, Principal, Oakgrove Integrated Primary School, which also took part in the panel discussions commented: ‘It was such a meaningful session with thoughtful and insightful viewpoints expressed by the pupils’ speeches tonight. They are a real credit to their schools and future ambassadors for intercultural relations.”
Some of those who were on the panel for last Friday’s debate included Inspector Louise Cummings, PSNI, Philip McDermott, Ulster University, Maureen Hetherington, The Junction and Michael Allen, Principal, Lisneal College.
Also on the panel were Colr. Sandra Duffy, Sinn Fein, Gary Middleton, DUP MLA, Colum Eastwood, SDLP MLA, Martine Mulhern and Joanne Nicholl, from St. Cecilia’s College, Angela Askin,DCSDC, and Amy Galbraith, Housing Executive.
Representing the North West Migrants Forum were Nandi Jola, Cultural Ambassador, Resty Bautista and Bacadine Springer, Vice Chair, NWMF.
For more photographs from last Friday’s event check out Page 53 of today’s edition.