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CRE takes new steps for better race relations

CRE's Safe Communities Initiative will act as resource of advice and guidance during community conflicts.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2003 23:18 IST
UK Bureau

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is launching a Safe Communities Initiative (SCI) to promote good race relations by responding to community conflicts and tensions and acting as a resource of advice and guidance. In certain cases of religious sensitivity it will look at issues from a faith perspective.

In a statement it pointed out that it will need "to deal with the underlying causes to religious conflict as indeed we have recently seen in the Wembley Hindu Temple desecration by two Christian zealots on the Diwali day. The guidance will need, in religious cases, to look to offer cohesive educational programmes, as clearly a somewhat different approach has to be taken to erase bigotry."

Over the past few months the CRE, in the form of a steering group, which includes faith bodies like the Hindu Council UK, Muslim Council of Britain and the Board of Jewish Deputies has been developing, with the help of various other public agencies, a core researched programme. It is studying past conflicts like in areas like Tower Hamlets, Wrexham, Bradford, Oldham and Birmingham. Cities like Oldham had faced the worst race riots two summers ago. It is also studying the problem of problem of youth gangs springing up in certain areas and their activities degenerating into drug abuse and crime. It will also understand and research the work being done by agencies like Leap in dealing with such gangs through schools and teacher liaisons.

The steering group is also looking into far right political are taking advantage of peoples vulnerabilities to incite further community conflicts and thereby, to try and draw the middle vote. After the race riots in the Midlands parties like the BNP gained seats in the areas. The group is also studying the negative attitudes in certain localities towards asylum seekers.

It said in a statement: "We have learnt how certain agencies, including neighbourhood renewal programmes, work to provide local solutions for conflict resolution. Equally we have seen that a serious civic disengagement can be brought about in certain areas by an absence of community networks or their leadership.

"Where there is no infrastructure for dealing with disorder then the problems festering through community conflicts usually, over time, lead to potentially violent outcomes. Such a violent and riotous behaviour does, however, have a long lead time; it does not happen suddenly on the occurrence of some single adverse event but rather through a relatively long series of brewing discomfort among one community against another and that it is sometimes then taken advantage of by external politically motivated parties to aggravate the situation.

"It is during this process we need to have adequate systems in place, an infrastructure for guidance and counselling to be able to put at least a halt to any increase in tensions among the communities affected."

The CRE will run pilot studies across the UK during 2004, through its SCI. It hopes to develop expertise to deal with the problems of community conflict. It plans to build various models of conflict management in order to provide longer-term solutions.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST