This year’s Black Santa appeal at Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral, now in its 45th year, is to help support refugees, tackle prejudice and “to create a more inclusive society for all.”
When Dean Stephen Forde was celebrating the Good Samaritan Service for the 2020 appeal, there was an arson attack on the Multi-Cultural Association Centre, and he felt very strongly that he wanted to take a stand for this year’s appeal.
The fire was judged a hate crime by the police.
The Dean said that “intolerance of difference” is the root cause of many problems in Northern Ireland.
“Yet we know that our communities can be sources of incredible support and love for people,” he said.
“I hope to use the appeal this year to tackle prejudice and misconception, and to change the reality for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“Fortunately, few of us will experience what forces some people to flee as refugees,” he added.
“Those who come here because of their fear of persecution for reasons such as race, religion or sexuality do so because they believe they will be safer in this place.”
The Dean said that the likelihood of a minority ethnic person experiencing a racist attack in Northern Ireland is 17 times higher than a person from a catholic or protestant background experiencing a sectarian attack.
“As a society, and as individuals, we need to do more to stand up to hate crime in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“I hope this focus from the Black Santa Appeal goes some way to supporting the people who need it most.”
The Belfast Black Santa Sit Out campaign was started in 1976 by Dean Sammy Crooks and all the money gathered is donated to local charities with a proportion given to Christian Aid.
None of the money raised goes to Belfast Cathedral.
As well as charities which support refugees, the money raised by this year’s Appeal will support more than 200 other local charities, including those which care for people with disabilities, children and the elderly; the improvement of employment opportunities for young people and a host of small charities that can’t afford paid fund-raisers.
Dean Stephen Forde will begin the annual Sit-Out on Monday December 13 until Christmas Eve on December 24.
People can visit the Cathedral and donate directly to the famous barrel either through cash donations or via contactless transaction.
Online donations can also be made on the www.belfastblacksanta.org website throughout December.