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Hate that united the rest of us in goodwill as £60,000 raised for Belfast Multi-Cultural Resource Association

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Muhammad Atif

Muhammad Atif

Muhammad Atif

The news that over £60,000 has been raised for the Belfast Multi-Cultural Resource Association after an arson attack destroyed the group's premises on Donegall Pass is truly heartening. The building was completely gutted and food parcels for the needy stored inside were lost after a huge fire on Thursday night.

The hand-wringing and well-intentioned messages that follow events such as these are one thing, but it's quite another for them to be followed up by people showing their willingness to put their hands in their pockets, open their wallets and help out financially.

It's a measure of how the incident has caught the imagination of people everywhere that donations have flowed in from across the world. Northern Ireland is not alone in being home to bigots who commit senseless crimes such as these - as we know only too well, this kind of wanton destruction is a worldwide problem.

However, that should not detract from condemnation of the arsonists who carried out this terrible act -people who, in the words of local MP Claire Hanna, are little more than 'racist goons'.

This was a hate crime of which we've seen many examples in the past, but there's a list of factors which arguably make this case even worse than any initial impression. That it happened in a former place of worship, that it targeted ethnic minorities, that the building is used to dole out charity to the needy, that it put pressure on the emergency services in the height of a pandemic... the list goes on.

In fairness to our leaders in Stormont, there was no hesitation in condemning the incident, with First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill describing the attack as "despicable".

Charity trustee Muhammad Atif said the attack was heartbreaking, but stressed that after the "unbelievable" show of financial support and messages of goodwill from every corner of Northern Ireland he and the centre were determined to carry on their work helping the local community.

£60,000 is a significant fundraising effort in just a couple of days - but it doesn't solve the immediate issues facing management of the centre. Our politicians can offer very practical help to go with their words, and provide every assistance to the community group as it seeks a temporary, alternative base.

More importantly, they can make sure the centre is rebuilt and renovated so the Belfast Multi-Cultural Resource Association can return and continue its good work in its rightful home.

Belfast Telegraph


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