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Indian Festival Promotes Greater Respect - McGuinness

26 August, 2007

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MP MLA, opening a traditional Indian summer festival in Belfast today said that the event did much to promote greater understanding and respect between ethnic and local communities.

Speaking at the annual Mela at Botanic Gardens, Mr McGuinness described the one-day festival as a celebration of the changing cultural mix:

"This festival puts Indian culture at its heart by giving people an exciting range of activities and events that inform and inspire. But it's also a real example of cultural diversity and an opportunity to explore and change our perceptions of cultures that are different from our own experience.

"The Executive is committed to social cohesion and integration, because as today’s event shows, mixing cultures and traditions provides a wonderful kaleidoscope that enriches us all.

"A cohesive, integrated, equal and sharing society which is at peace with itself and where new members of our society are welcome is what we are determined to achieve.

"Our aim is to achieve a society where people from different cultures, races and faiths can live and work together peacefully, creating a stable and prosperous future for us all."

The festival will include performances of music and dance, food stalls serving Indian, Chinese, Caribbean and Spanish cuisine and entertainment for children including a labyrinth, jugglers and magicians.

The Mela, an Indian word meaning festival or gathering, is organised by ArtsEkta, a charity specialising in cultural awareness and anti-racism. It aims to promote and support multicultural arts and artists through sharing cultural experiences and raising awareness and acceptance of different cultures.

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