For a country which for centuries has been monocultural and one which has seen milllions of its citizens migrating abroad to seek a new life in a foreign land, Ireland now finds itself as the recipient of people coming from a wide variety of nations and ethnic groups. Tensions have developed around the country as recession heightens fears about employment opportunities and as varying cultural practices challenge the status quo.
The President of the country, Mary McAleese is continually stressing that Ireland needs now to be a welcoming country - a country of failte to diverse peoples.
A new initiative - the Lantern Centre centrally situated in Synge St Dublin, has recently been established by Michael Murray cfc, Anne Horgan rsc and Edward Romeo Obuff, aiming to be a place of hospitality to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue. Supported by the Christian Brothers, the Centre has two areas of focus. One is at a practical level of offering hospitality and space for various interfaith and intercultural groups to meet and interact, and the second is an Education Inclusion Initiative.
The Centre, as one of its goals, facilitates the formation and development of ethnic based groups (national, cultural, and faith). An International Women for Change (IWC) group from a variety of nationalities has been formed at the Centre. The United Chinese Federation of Ireland has been hosted at the Centre, as has also the Carribbean community and the Kurdish community.
An interfaith programme of dialogue entitled "The Search for the Divine" has taken place, with presentations on different evenings by Islamic, Sikh, Bahá'í, Buddhist, Unitarian, Hindu, Society of Friends, Jewish, Sufi and the Unification Church. These sessions have been open to the public with strong encouragement to the different groups to come along and to interact with one another.
The Centre hosts the Irish Chinese Information Service targeting members of the Irish Chinese community, especially those more recently arrived and requiring information or guidance. Integrating Ireland has conducted a substantial part of its training programmes at the Centre.
The Lantern Centre facilitates the formation and development of cross-cultural interest based groups and now has a Film club, a Photographic club, a Slovakian choir, and it is the venue for drama rehearsals of Classic Stage Ireland - a group which offers cross cultural workshops for beginning actors.
Recently the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Emer Costello, attended the Diaspora Women's Initiative (DWI) commemorating Irish Aids Day at the Lantern Centre.The Centre also offers opportunities for the celebration of feasts, festivals and other events of a cultural or cross cultural nature
Education Inclusion Initiative
The sccond major focus area of the Lantern Centre is the Education Inclusion Initiative [EII] which aims to support schools in the task of developing greater inclusion of families in the education of their children. Communication problems arising from language difficulties have been identified as a major barrier to the work of inclusion. EII has networked 15 schools from both the primary and post primary in one area of Dublin and from the town of Portloise. The schools were invited to join because of the variety of cultures and language groups they serve. In a recent survey it emerged that this group of schools served families from 44 nationalities with Polish, Filipino, Nigerian, Romanian and Pakistani dominating.
The project offers a Translation and Interpretation service to participating schools to help communication with parents whose knowledge of English is limited. EII attempts to improve intercultural competence in the schools through the provision of suitable modules in careeer staff development through Trinity College, leading to a post graduate Diploma. Education Inclusion Initiative is associated with the Centre of Inclusion, which is part of the Marino Institute of Education.
The choice of the Lantern theme was inspired by the symbolism attached to it in the life of Nano Nagle, who searched the back lanes of Cork each evening with her lantern, seeking those who were oppressed or outcast in any way. Her example provided a model and a Religious Life Rule for Edmund Rice who establised the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers.
For more information contact: http://lanterncentre.org