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Belfast multicultural centre staff stunned as nearly £60k donated after arson attack

Blaze at Belfast multicultural centre results in 'unbelievable' flood of donations

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Mohammad Atif and Asim Sattar outside the Belfast Multi Cultural centre after the racist attack

Mohammad Atif and Asim Sattar outside the Belfast Multi Cultural centre after the racist attack

Stephen Hamilton

Mohammad Atif and Asim Sattar outside the Belfast Multi Cultural centre after the racist attack

Staff at a multicultural community group whose food bank was torched in a racist attack say they have been overwhelmed by generous donations.

Thousands of people have pledged nearly £60,000 to help the group smash fundraising targets following the blaze at its south Belfast centre on Thursday night.

Donations have flooded in from across Northern Ireland and beyond, Muhammad Atif, secretary of the Belfast Multi-Cultural Resource Association, said.

"It's unbelievable...it is good to show a really nice picture of the people of Northern Ireland," said Mr Atif.

Multiple targets were passed over the weekend, with an initial £10,000 goal raised in hours.

"The community, and all over the world, America, the rest of Ireland, are sending money - it is unbelievable," Mr Atif added.

"We have also received hundreds of messages of support from every corner of Northern Ireland."

Approximately 50 firefighters battled the blaze after the alarm was raised around 8.30pm. The centre, operating as a food and clothes bank for those in need, was seriously damaged.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director. Patrick Corrigan, who set up the JustGiving page, said the response had been "overwhelming" and represented "a bouquet of love" for the association and its volunteers.

The initial £10,000 target was passed within two hours of the page going live on Friday evening. A revised £20,000 target was passed soon afterwards, with a third target of £30,000 reached on Saturday morning.

As of Sunday evening, just over £55,000 was donated. Mr Atif added: "We are really thankful to all the people. This will help us get on our feet very soon.

Businesses and other charities have offered space to the association, the secretary said, adding that the work of the organisation will continue otherwise as its dozen volunteers have been working from home offering advice, guidance and support.

The Executive has also promised help, Mr Atif said.

In a joint statement on Friday, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill described the attack on the centre as "despicable".

Management and volunteers will meet early this week to make short term decisions, including where to relocate.

The centre was targeted previously, including in September when the windows of four cars were smashed. That was also classified as a hate crime, Mr Atif said.

"We are asking them to stop doing what they are doing," he said. "Donegall Pass is our community and I cannot see people from here not being with us. I believe and hope they are supporting us."

He added: "We are here to help regardless of which religion you are, what community you come from. We do not ask any questions. We are just here to help."

South Belfast MP Claire Hanna contrasted the fundraising response with the mindset of those who targeted the centre.

"A handful of racist goons who can't accept difference attack a thoroughly decent and engaged community group and Foodbank, and our diverse community responds by raising thousands of pounds in a matter of hours. That's South Belfast," she said.

Belfast Telegraph


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