Coordinated by the Community Relations Council (CRC), the week will include events by a wide range of organisations, including schools, libraries, local councils, community and voluntary groups, and others.
Issues covered by events in the programme include faith, parading, cultural diversity, flags and emblems, sport, dealing with the past and other topics. A full programme of events is available here.
Events are taking place in all 26 district council areas, including more than 50 events planned in Belfast City Council area and more than 50 in Derry City Council area.
One of the first events of the week will urge Northern Ireland politicians to ‘Finish the Job’ of building a united community by resolving outstanding issues in the peace process.
Featuring contributions from politicians from all of the main political parties, as well as from Denis Bradley and Rev Dr Lesley Carroll, the CRC Policy Conference will also examine the implementation of the NI Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community’ strategy. It begins today (Monday 16th) at 10am at the 174 Trust in the Duncairn Complex, Belfast.
Today (Monday 16th) will also see a Youth Peace Summit at Parliament Buildings, Stormont between 2.30pm and 4pm, organised by Youth Action, when young people will meet with MLA’s to share their ideas and opinions on making real progress on peace building, and invite MLA’s to contribute to a ‘Tree of Peace’ with messages of support for their ‘Youth Peace Manifesto.’
The ‘Tree of Peace’ will be relocated to the Great Hall in Stormont where it will be displayed for the remainder of Community Relations week.
Other events will include the launch by the Confederation of Ulster Bands on Tuesday (17th June) of a three-year strategic plan. The event will also facilitate a dialogue to promote engagement between the bands and the wider community.
A major programme by WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), the global arts festival co-founded by Peter Gabriel, will also take place, in conjunction local partner Beyond Skin. This will include showcase events in Belfast (20th June) and Ballymena (21st June), in addition to 35 workshops throughout the week.
Belfast City Council has also agreed to light up Belfast City Hall in a multitude of colours to mark the first day of Community Relations Week today (Monday 16th).
CRC Chairman Peter Osborne says that the kind of work being showcased during Community Relations Week is as important as ever before.
“There has been real progress in Northern Ireland, but the fundamentals of division still very much remain. We know that over 90 per cent of children are educated in separate schools; that interface walls still divide communities; and that sectarian riots still happen as routine annual events. Racist attacks have also become a depressingly regular occurrence,” he says.
“The kind of year-round work that is being showcased during Community Relations Week is making an important difference in communities across Northern Ireland. But more needs to be done.
“The £2million that CRC is receiving from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister will help us sustain vital work at interfaces, help build race relations, help deal with contentious issues like parading, flags and emblems, and more. But to put it in context, it is less than one ten-thousandth (0.0001%) of annual public expenditure in Northern Ireland. In reality, that is nowhere near enough to deal with such a fundamental societal issue as building peace and reconciliation, which will underpin the sustainability of other economic and social change.”
“During Community Relations Week, we will be urging everyone involved in the peace process to finish the job. Our political leaders have a key role to play, but it’s a job for everyone in society,” he adds.
Jacqueline Irwin, CRC Chief Executive says: “The theme of this year’s Community Relations Week is Building a United Community. Building a united community is as urgent now as it was when the peace agreement was signed in 1998. We have plenty of examples of our capacity to slip back into animosity and old ways of thinking. There is no room for complacency. Building good cross-community and inter-cultural relationships is a core foundation of peace here. It is an essential insurance policy, for all of us, against the destruction of our peace. Community Relations Week is always an opportunity to showcase the great work that goes on quietly all year round to build and sustain relationships. It is a time to celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of our community and the many imaginative ways in which we are building a shared cultural region. This programme shows the wide variety of events that will take place during the week, organised by voluntary and community groups, District Councils, schools, libraries and other public bodies. We are grateful to everyone who is organising or attending events during the week. Your personal commitment to good community relations is changing this place. Your energy and enthusiasm is the fabric of our peace. Community Relations Week is packed with great examples of the united community that is being built all around us right now. Most of the events are open to the public. By participating in them we all have a chance to show our support for this work and an opportunity to recognise and celebrate our shared humanity.”
Community Relations Week has been taking place each year for more than 10 years. Coordinated by the Community Relations Council, it involves events run by a wide range of organisations. More information is available at www.community-relations.org.uk