Drive launched to tackle hate crime
A reinvigorated campaign to encourage victims of hate crime to report their experiences has been launched in Belfast.
Unite Against Hate was relaunched in the wake of a recent upsurge in racist incidents in the city.
Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon highlighted the services available to those targeted as she attended the launch at the MAC centre.
The multi-agency campaign is being spearheaded by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building in partnership with Victim Support NI.
"Belfast City Council is fully committed to supporting the Unite Against Hate campaign, and I would like to personally thank all of those here today who are working so hard to try to tackle prejudice, ignorance and hate crime in our society," said Ms Mallon.
"Belfast is becoming a more diverse city and a melting pot for many different cultures and ethnic groups - and is a richer place for it. Belfast people are known for their warm welcome. Recent headlines are upsetting and certainly not representative of the majority of people living in the city.
"It's important that we do all we can to support those who feel marginalised or vulnerable and this campaign is important in highlighting the services that are available to provide help and support."
The campaign calls on all individuals, groups and communities to unite in stamping out hate crime in Northern Ireland.
It has received support from the region's leading sporting organisations including the Irish Football Association, Ulster Rugby and the GAA as well as student bodies throughout the region and a wide range of statutory and voluntary organisations.
Hanna Stewart from Victim Support NI said: "Being a victim of hate crime can be a horrible, traumatic and isolating experience for people and their families and often goes unreported. We want to make victims aware that practical help and emotional support is available whether or not they want to report the crime to the police.
"We hope that this campaign will serve as a platform to promote existing services for victims of hate crime. There is a responsibility on all of us to unite to ensure that resources for victims of hate crime are adequate and sustained and to play a role stamping out hate and intolerance whether it be in our own communities, families or in the workplace."
Lord Alderdice, chair of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, added: "In a series of war anniversaries, the people of Europe are currently being reminded of the horrifying consequences of the virus of hate. In our own community we do not need to look so far back to find how sectarian bigotry can destroy lives.
"Most young people believe that the increasing diversity of our society is welcome and entirely positive, and whatever our differences of class, creed, culture and colour we can all come together and 'unite against hate'.
"Hate has disfigured our community in the past and it must never be allowed to re-emerge, not in relation to each other as Protestants and Catholics, nor against people whose race, disability, gender or sexual orientation marks them out as different. We want our community to welcome diversity but be united against hate."