Prevention initiatives that are making a real difference

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This month our focus is on Hate Crime - at this time of year the latest national statistics for hate crime reporting come out and we renew our efforts to make more people aware of what hate crime is and how to report it. In Wiltshire and Swindon, we've seen a 22 per cent increase in reported hate crimes in the last 12 months, double the national trend.

Hate crime is hatred or hostility - perceived by the victim or any other person - just because of someone's race, religion, disability, transgender identity or sexual orientation.

I welcome the increase in reporting; it shows more people having the confidence to come forward, and encourage anyone who is a victim or witness to do so.

However, in a world full of conflict, I wanted to look at prevention initiatives that are making a real difference.

City of Sanctuary is charity with a vision for the UK to be a welcoming place of safety for all and offers sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution.

Around 100 towns and cities in the UK have joined the scheme. In each of these, the main organisation has committed to work towards greater inclusion and equality for refugees and people seeking sanctuary, while increasing public awareness.

The principles of the charity date back to 700 BC and continued to be recognised for the next 1000 years. Moses set aside three cities to the East of Jordan where a person who had killed another could flee, as long as the death was unintentional and the two parties had no hostility between them. Whilst in the city, the person would be given sanctuary until there was a trial, and provisions were made to ensure this took place in a timely way.

Today, when someone comes to our country to stay in the City of Sanctuary, the community will not judge them. Instead, they are welcomed, given the opportunity to engage in social and cultural events, music and drama. There are opportunities to learn the English language, be educated on customs and prepare themselves to be accepted for residency.

The sanctuary supports those who have experienced severe conflict and endured painful journeys. They are also likely to have undiagnosed mental health conditions and will far too often self-medicate through drug or alcohol misuse.

In Wiltshire, only Swindon is currently a member of the scheme.   I have enjoyed several evenings with local people and those who are seeking the right to remain from Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia or Syria.

I am proud to be part of a community that acts in this way and follows the basic law given to most of our religious belief systems.

Published on Tuesday 29 October 2019