In 1995 NICHS established an Interdenominational Youth Club at its centre in North Belfast. The centre is situated in an area which is acceptable and accessible to the two traditions in an area where NICHS currently has close links with schools and community groups. This area of North Belfast is highly segregated and has a long history of sectarian tension. About one quarter of all sectarian killings have taken place within a two mile radius of the Centre. In spite of recent political developments there is still gang fighting and rioting between young people in adjacent Catholic and Protestant areas. Unless this problem is tackled real peace will still be an elusive principle in the everyday life of these communities.
The establishment of a Youth Club, whose membership is open to young people from any denomination living in the local area, complements the cross-community work already carried out by the NICHS. It provides a meeting place, with a relaxed and safe atmosphere, where young people can meet, share experiences and extend their cross-community contact. Youth Club programmes will be developed in line with NICHS core projects which can provide:
i) the provision of long-term positive cross-community contact between individuals from segregated and marginalised, yet interface communities.
ii) the provision of opportunities for young Catholics and Protestants to develop on a personal level.
iii) the provision of programmes which seek to address sectarianism and encourage mutual understanding and acceptance.
iv) the provision of opportunities for the segregated communities from which the young people are drawn to initiate and sustain meaningful cross-community work.
The establishment of a Cross-Community Youth Resource Centre in
the heart of North Belfast will provide long term positive and
regular contact between individuals and their highly segregated
and divided communities.