Since my son Martyn was murdered in the Manchester Arena bombing on the 22 May 2017, I’ve been compelled more than ever to turn such a horrific incident of hate into a force for change.
When you hear such horrific news about your own family, I think many turn to anger to try and cope with the pain.
Before Martyn died I had never thought about this kind of violence, or why anyone would want to do something so atrocious to other people, especially based on factors like race, sexual orientation or background.
I’ve come to realise that hatred comes from a lack of understanding of others and despising differences instead of embracing them.
It’s why I have been delivering workshops in schools right across the country on the importance of tolerance and acceptance over hate and division, including at the school that the perpetrator of the Manchester Arena bombing attended as a young man.
These workshops are on the importance of kindness and it is my hope that they will further develop young people’s critical thinking.
On my recent trip to New Zealand, where I met the Muslim congregation and families, I saw the devastation caused by the Christchurch shooting back in March, an attack motivated by racist hatred.
I’ve realised any form of hatred against someone else, whether verbal, physical or life-threatening must be taken seriously and tackled with every effort and I believe I have a responsibility to do my bit.
Recent figures show that hate crimes recorded by the police have risen by 10 per cent in the last year alone. This motivates me more to contribute to the fight against hatred.
Many may feel that they will never be a victim of a hate crime, terror or any form of racist abuse. That’s what I used to think, but Martyn’s death certainly changed my life and how I view the world.
Rising hate crime targeting people from different cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities can divide communities in this country, creating an illusion of a clash of cultures which only further emboldens extremists. Hatred in all its forms must be tackled to reduce the terror threat.
By delivering workshops in schools, universities and other institutions, I not only talk about how my son Martyn’s story has motivated me, but also about the importance of respect to others that may be different to you, with the hope to foster the kind of tolerance and resilience in young people that I saw in my son.
Hate Crime Awareness Week shouldn’t be seen as a stand-alone opportunity to speak against hatred.
The week is part of the greater cause to educate ourselves and others on the power of our words and actions. They can destroy if motivated by hate, but words and actions can also be used to uplift and inspire.
Education is the key to making real change, and it’s important to encourage people from a young age to make a difference.
In the last year I’ve managed to reach nearly 5,000 children around the country and what I’ve seen gives me real hope.
Young people are interested, curious about the world and about people who have different opinions to their own.
And this tolerance and appreciation for our society starts at home, not through grand gestures. It’s through making a cup of tea, giving a compliment and spending less time on your phones.
I believe critical thinking should be encouraged from an early age and this message shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Many may feel that they will never be a victim of a hate crime, terror or any form of racist abuse.
That’s what I used to think, but Martyn’s death certainly changed my life and how I view the world.
It shouldn’t take something so tragic for people to make an effort to stop and think about what they say and how the act. We all have a part to play in making our society better.
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