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Community cohesion tops agenda

31 January 2014

Rachel Atkinson

UCLan students took part in a special Audience with Colin Parry OBE

Community cohesion was top of the agenda at a special Audience with Colin Parry OBE event held in Burnley this week.

The event, which was held at the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) Burnley Campus, involved students from UCLan’s undergraduate programmes along with students from Pakistan’s University of Gujrat who joined us via the Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership’s innovative new ‘live’ online classroom.

Introduced by UCLan lecturer Wajid Khan, Colin Parry, whose son Tim died in the 1993 Warrington bombings, spoke about the importance of developing community cohesion at a young age.

"It is a powerful thing to bring kids together who wouldn’t normally meet and give them the opportunity to discuss the problems that they face from a very young age.”

Colin Parry and group

In his discussion about how The Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball Foundation for Peace came to be established Colin said: “In the early days the charity began with an annual visit between kids from Northern Ireland, Dublin and Warrington meeting and exchanging their views and ideas. It is a powerful thing to bring kids together who wouldn’t normally meet and give them the opportunity to discuss the problems that they face from a very young age.”

In their discussion Colin, students from UCLan and the University of Gujrat agreed that citizenship, peace and understanding between different groups and cultures should be built into the education system at primary schools.

“Be the change you want to see in the world."

He also talked about sectarianism and extremism and said these issues can be overcome through dialogue and understanding. Colin also discussed his personal motivation for peace in giving the group a heartfelt account of events leading up to the loss of his son.

Dr Alethea Melling MBE, the Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership Director, said sectarianism is a universal problem driven by fear and lack of understanding of the ‘other’. She went on to say that education and dialogue are key to change, starting with small children and families, such as the Tiny Steps programme delivered by the Foundation for Peace. Yasir Butt, UCLan Community Leadership student, pointed out that religious leaders also need to take a leadership role in promoting dialogue for peace.

Dr Melling concluded by referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement “be the change you want to see in the world”, saying: “Colin Parry OBE epitomises that ideal.”