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‘Church and Government can offer leadership in building diverse society - Kelly

19 January, 2008

The Church and Government, working together in partnership, could provide focused leadership in building a diverse society, Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly said in Dublin today.

Attending a Church of Ireland conference on migration and community cohesion, Mr Kelly said the Church had a key role to play and that it could deliver in areas where Government may not be able to.

Mr Kelly told the Hard Gospel Conference:

"We witness daily the increasing diversity amongst the people who live here. It is remarkable that Ireland - long a place of outward migration - is now experiencing inward migration.

"All new communities and migrant workers in our society are very welcome. Not only for the economic benefits, but also the contribution they make to our cultural life.

"Today's conference is evidence that we are progressing towards an integrated community, but there are challenges along the way for the Church, Government and local communities.

"Too often the tendency is to talk about 'increasing diversity' in a purely abstract sense. It is all too easy to forget that these changes are experienced in a very real way.

"Diversity involves new people, living down the street, shopping at local shops, attending local schools and working alongside us and sharing our places of worship. It is at this level that the real level of integration must happen.

"It is important for us all to work together to promote good relations but Church and Government, in partnership, could provide the focused leadership."

Junior Minister Kelly also told the conference that differences in society should be celebrated.

"The differences in our society must cease to be barriers. Difference must be recognised, appreciated and celebrated.

"It is important that we all act to make sure that intolerance, sectarianism, racism and violence have no place in our modern society.

"Every one of us has a responsibility and a role to play in creating a society that is at ease with the diversity of individuals and whole communities," Mr Kelly added.

The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is currently working on bringing forward detailed proposals for a 'programme of cohesion and integration for a shared and better future.' ENDS

Note to Editors

The two-day conference focused on how the Church can contribute positively to issues of migration, integration and community cohesion.

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