Integration theme at Peace III conference

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INTEGRATION is key to a democratic and shared society.

That was the theme of the North East PEACE III Community Integration Project conference held at the Lodge Hotel, Coleraine, last Tuesday.

The conference was organised by the Community Integration Project which is funded under the European Union’s PEACE III Programme and is managed on behalf of the Special EU Programmes Body by the North East PEACE III Partnership.

The project works to increase the confidence, capacity, knowledge and skills of local people across the North East area by engaging in reconciliation, anti-sectarian and anti-racism work.

The keynote speaker was Dr Ceasar McDowell, President of Interaction Institute for Social Change and part-time Professor of the Practice of Community Development at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr McDowell brought a fresh international perspective to the issue of community integration, reminding us that this is a critical challenge to every society.

“We can easily exist by separating ourselves from each other,” he said. “The world will go on. But if we want to live and not just exist then we must find a way to let the other, that person we believe so different than us, show us how much like us they are. We can only do this by agreeing to work beside them, in whatever fashion, to create something larger than the two of us.

The event was attended by representatives from the community groups taking part in the project, as well as councillors and advocates from various statutory agencies.

Speaking after the event Colin Neilands, Director of the WEA - lead delivery partner for the project - said: “We all look forward now to seeing these help build better relations and greater acceptance and tolerance of difference in towns and villages across the North East.”

The participating community groups have been engaged in a variety of workshops, courses, seminars and study visits over the past year.

The project continues to run until September when the closing conference will showcase the achievements of the local community integrations project.