Breaking down barriers in Derry – intercultural city

NWMF projects director Lillian Seenoi with Nandi Jola, left and Zandile Zawula, right.

Caption: NWMF projects director Lillian Seenoi with Nandi Jola, left and Zandile Zawula, right.

The diversity of Derry was explored on Friday as part of a special event organised by the North West Migrants Forum (NWMF).

The half-day event saw people from across the city come together to discuss matters that affect them, while giving them a chance to talk about other cultures and meet each other face-to-face.

With lively debates and discussion with some of the newest members of the community, including refugees and migrants, people heard of their experiences, how their lives have been changed and how they are contributing to creating a more intercultural North West.

The programme included challenging myths and discovering facts about Islam and Arab-Muslim cultures, as well as a ‘Welcome to Ireland’ section, which featured Irish culture and language awareness. Life experiences were shared by Syrian families settled in the city and talks focused on Africa, its cultures and its people.

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Director of programmes, Lillian Seenoi, said the event was a roaring success and that everyone took something away with them that would enrich their lives. “Our Intercultural awareness event held on Friday, focused more on ways in which we could bring people together to create a new, shared culture, which has new meaning for everyone.By nature, we are all social and it is in the interaction with others that we develop as individuals. We focus on social interaction between people of different backgrounds, those who are born and socialise into specific groups. At NWMF, we strongly believe that when these individuals have some experience that leads them to question these given conventions and values but not necessarily reject them, they begin to become intercultural and this contributes towards a shared future that we can all aspire to.”

Those who participated in the event said they learned a lot about religious diversity, Islam and African cultures and how people felt arriving in Derry from another country. One said: “We are all people. The media, politicians have their agendas, but not everyone does.”

Another said that people from ethnic minority groups could help to influence others and “could teach NI politicians how to get along”.

“It exceeded my expectations and made me more aware of how culturally diverse our city is”, said another participant. While another one wrote: “There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’ on this earth, only us.”

Ms Seenoi added: “We hope that this fantastic event will become an annual one as more and more people are becoming interested in learning about other cultures not just through sampling food and dance but through real discussion that shows how diversity can enrich a city and those who live in it. We could not have achieved this without the support of the Minority Ethnic Development Fund, from the Executive Office and the Northern Ireland Community Foundation. Supporting such events could move Northern Ireland forward from a multicultural society to an intercultural one, in which everyone has a sense of value and belonging.”

For more information on the event, please contact Lillian Seenoi at NWFM on 02871 362184.

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