A VIRTUAL meeting took place last weekend to mark the start of National Hate Crime Awareness Week in the UK.

The meeting, held on Zoom on Saturday, October 9, also celebrated the fourth International Integration Day and the first anniversary of the launch of the Centre for Commonwealth Research by the non-profit community group NWAMI (formerly known as the North Wales Association for Multicultural Integration).

Guest speakers included Andy Dunbobbin, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, Professor Iwan Davies, vice chancellor of Bangor University, Clwyd West MP David Jones and North Wales MS Mark Isherwood.

Sibani Roy, NWAMI chair, also provided an update on the work of the Centre for Commonwealth Research, while among other guest presenters, there was also a poetry reading from former young people's poet laureate for Wales, Martin Daws.

In a welcoming message, Mr Jones said: “I’m very pleased to welcome celebrating the fourth International Integration Day, as well as the first anniversary of the establishment of NWAMI’s Commonwealth Research Centre, and the beginning of Hate Crime Awareness Week.

“I’ve been very proud and privileged to be associated with NWAMI over many years, and I know how much good work they do under the leadership of Sibani Roy to foster good community relations in North Wales, and now, of course, they’re extending their activities right around the Commonwealth.”

Mr Isherwood added: “Racially and religiously motivated hate crimes hit a new high across England and Wales in 2020.

“According to official data, a total of 61,851 racially and religiously aggravated offences were recorded last year, up seven per cent on the previous year; that’s more than double the 28,479 recorded in 2013, the first year specific data was made available.

“Hate crimes are based on ignorance and prejudice. NWAMI recognises that the best way to tackle that is through integration, through engagement, through sharing together.

“They've done some wonderful work during the pandemic, delivering food parcels, particularly to members of the black, Asian and ethnic minority communities who are isolating, and who have dietary requirements due to medical or cultural needs.”

Mr Dunbobbin said: “I want to be encouraging as many people as I can to get involved with Hate Crime Awareness Week and to have that power to report hate crime wherever they see it.

“We want people to know that there is no place for hate crime in North Wales. We want our communities to stand with us and say: ‘We will not stand for it; it is totally unacceptable.’ We need to demonstrate that it will not be tolerated.

“We are here to celebrate a multicultural North Wales, and the valuable role community cohesion has in improving lives, reducing tensions and leading to more settled, peaceful communities.”

Professor Davies added: “I think that the biggest challenge we have is to overcome dogma with true scientific scholarship, and in doing so, we reassert the great values of our civilisation, and those values really circle around great principles of human rights: equality, sympathy and respect for each other.

“This is not mere tolerance; this is one which respects and also builds up human beings.”

The event was chaired by Judge Ray Singh CBE, an independent member of the Velindre NHS Trust and a qualified judge.

You can watch it back in full by visiting: www.tinyurl.com/k3z7y4xb.