Creative artwork designed by young people in Ballymena as part of a project to address hate crime has been unveiled.
The project, led by the Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum and the PSNI, and sponsored by Ballymena Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), involved young people exploring and developing their understanding of the sensitive issues of prejudice, hate, tolerance and mutual respect and then expressing what they had learned in a piece of art.
Sixty young people from four Youth Groups, Waveney, Startrek, Dunclug and Harryville, were involved in the project with each focusing on different art forms such as clay, mosaic, DJ skills and willow sculpture respectively.
David Ford said: “Hate crime is evident in our society and we have seen how some of our neighbours were targeted in several parts of Belfast in recent weeks. This complete intolerance of other cultures is totally unacceptable.
“The Community Safety Strategy sets out my vision of a safer, shared and confident Northern Ireland where hate crime of any description will not be tolerated. In order to achieve this, I believe that prevention, education and awareness are fundamentally important for all age groups but in particular, for young people.
“It has been a great pleasure to see the artwork on display. The creativity each of the young people has displayed in translating what they have learned about diversity and respect into a piece of art is a great talent. It is clear that everyone involved embraced the project. The strap lines they have developed such as ‘Everybody is somebody’and ‘Focus on the similarity not the difference’ sum up their level of understanding and respect for cultural differences.
“Through their participation, including discussion and sharing of experiences, these young people are better able understand hate crime and its consequences and to think about what they can do to make a positive difference – in their own lives and in the lives of other people.”
Each piece of artwork will now take pride of place in each youth centre and will help spread the message of tolerance and respect.
David Ford continued: “The Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum, the PCSP, the PSNI and, most importantly, the young people involved should all be commended for their part in this excellent project.”
Speaking at the launch Vice Chair of Ballymena Policing and Community Safety Partnership, Eugene Reid stated: “Race hate crime is unacceptable in our communities. We in the PCSP have prioritised hate crime in our Action Plan and we will be relentless in seeking ways to reduce the incidence of race hate crime and to increase reporting where it does take place.
“We want the reputation of our town as a welcoming location for visitors to include those from every race, denomination, creed and class. To combat racial crime we must use the tool of education. Parents passing on prejudiced views to young people cannot be allowed to continue.
“Projects like this ‘Addressing Hate Crime through the Arts’ are crucial in helping to educate and promote the acceptance of diversity among all our young people. I would like to thank everyone who has participated.”