A former soldier from Bosnia will warn of the dangers of ignoring hate crime as he joins representatives from communities across Merseyside for a special event in Liverpool today (Monday, 5th February) to mark the start of regional Hate Crime Awareness Week.
Merseyside sees a reduction in reporting of hate crimes of around a third at this time of year - in the past three years there have been an average of 165 hate crime offences reported in February compared with 257 in October (a 36% decrease).
Merseyside Police, along with Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cheshire and Lancashire’s forces, is calling on victims and witnesses of hate crimes to come forward with any information that could help bring perpetrators to justice.
In 1992, Rešad Trbonja aged 19, went from being an ordinary teenager to a soldier defending Sarajevo against the longest siege in modern history. He was enlisted into the Bosnian government army to defend the city against Serb forces and continued to fight until the war was over in 1995. He still lives in Sarajevo with his wife and son.
Rešad now works a coordinator for Remembering Srebrenica, a UK charity established in the memory of more than 8,000 Bosniaks massacred in Eastern Bosnia, and travels the world giving talks on the consequences of hatred when left unchallenged.
He will speak at the event to an audience of more than 250 people a day before he speaks at the House of Lords.
Rešad said: "It is important to remember the victims of the Bosnian war to prevent this from happening again – as they say, history is the mother of all science. Unfortunately, in Bosnia we have three histories, and the most dangerous one is the narrative that the kids get from their homes. That’s why it’s important to hear the life stories of the victims and survivors, and share them with friends and family.
"Only by listening to the life stories, and remembering what happened, can we reach out to people and, hopefully, contribute to a better, safer future."
Monday's multi-faith event, will be held at the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas Church, in Liverpool city centre, at 10am and will be attended by the Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell and The Rector of Liverpool Rev Dr Crispin Pailing.
Speakers will include the Chief Constable, Resad Trbonja, trans activist Imogen Christie and Merseyside Volunteer Police Cadet Benjamin McGowan. The event - chaired by BBC Radio Merseyside presenter Roger Phillips - will be attended by representatives from faith groups, support organisations, housing associations, the Mini Police, local schoolchildren and police officers.
There will also be performances by students from LIPA and the choir from Daisy Inclusive UK.
The focus of the event will be to mark the start of a new regional Hate Crime Awareness Week and highlight how communities in Merseyside are working side by side to combat hate crime.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: "I am proud to be joining representatives from Merseyside’s diverse communities for the launch of our Regional Hate Crime Awareness Week.
"Our region is famed for its warm welcome. A welcome that extends to people from all races and faiths, to people of all sexual orientations and genders and to people of all abilities, whether they are visiting for work or leisure or they call Merseyside home.
"Today’s event is an opportunity to celebrate and promote our inclusivity and our region’s rich diversity.
"Nobody should be subject to abuse, fear or hatred simply because of who they are and this week is an opportunity for us to come together to send out a united message that hate crime of any kind will not be tolerated across Merseyside.
"I would urge anyone who has been subjected to hate to contact Merseyside Police. Or, if for any reason you don’t feel comfortable speaking to the police, ring independent charity Stop Hate UK on 0800 138 1625 who provide 24/7 help and support, or visit http://www.stophateuk.org/. There are also more than 90 independent centres across the region where you can go to contact Stop Hate UK - anywhere displaying a ‘red hand’ logo is part of this important network standing up against hate.
Detective Superintendent Richie Salter said: "We do see a reduction in reports of hate crime at this time of year. This may in part be down to a decrease in the number of incidents, but we suspect part of the reason may be that – for whatever reason – victims feel less inclined to report incidents at this time of year.
"We know it has been a vastly under-reported crime for so long now. If people are being targeted because they are perceived to be different then we want them to come forward and tell us rather than suffer in silence.
"The more action we can take against perpetrators, the more confidence we can instil in victims that if they report things to the police we will protect, support them and make it stop.
"Victims can report directly to the police where specially-trained hate crime officers will treat them with sensitivity and compassion, or via third party reporting centres in fire stations, citizen advice bureaus and hospitals where the information will be passed on.
"By continuing to encourage greater reporting we can protect and support more victims and make it clear to perpetrators that we will do everything we can to put them before the courts."
Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM said: "Merseyside is rightly proud of being a diverse place to live, work and socialise and I am delighted that so many representatives from across the community can join us for this event.
"There is no place in our society for hate crime and Merseyside Police is committed to maintaining the right of all our communities to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.
"It is vital that we give our support to anyone who believes they have been subjected to abuse or left in fear because of who they are and I want to reassure the public that the Force is committed to taking action against those responsible for hate crime and building trust with the most vulnerable members of our communities.
"I would urge anyone who feels they have been a victim to contact us in the knowledge that we will take their concerns seriously and we will take prompt action."
What is hate crime?
A hate crime or incident is any incident that may or may not be a criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.
The prejudice or hate can be based on a number of factors including:
- Disability (including learning disabilities)
- Race/ ethnicity
- Religion or belief (including no belief)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
How do I know what a hate crime is?
- Verbal abuse or insults
- Abusive gestures
- Bullying in school or workplace
- Offensive letters
- Obscene telephone calls
- Physical attacks
- Damage to property
- Offensive graffiti