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Editorial: Attack based on religion must be deplored

IT is deeply disturbing in Northern Ireland in 2022 that we are still hearing of appalling attacks on young people because of their perceived religion or background.

Police are treating an assault on a 13-year-old Protestant boy in north Belfast on Sunday as a 'sectarian motivated hate crime'.

We are told the schoolboy was visiting a fast food outlet at Brougham Street with two friends when they were surrounded by a group of youths and asked where they were from and what religion they were.

After refusing to answer, the teenager was kicked and punched and needed hospital treatment for facial injuries.

Older generations will be all too familiar with family stories and even direct experience of being questioned about their religion and suffering abuse, intimidation or worse as a result.

We would like to think that such intolerant attitudes would be firmly consigned to the past, so it is profoundly depressing that we are witnessing this deplorable behaviour in young people today.

It is important that children and young people learn that violence is never acceptable and that sectarianism, regardless of which side of the community it comes from, is completely wrong and has no place in our society.

Anyone who can help to ensure the perpetrators of this attack are held to account should assist the police in their investigation.

Elected representatives from across the political divide have condemned the attack and also issued appeals for calm.

This time of year is clearly one where we can experience heightened tensions. The area where the sectarian attack took place is close to the North Queen Street interface which has regularly seen disorder and violence.

It is vital that youths tempted to take to the streets or cause any sort of trouble heed the calls of local politicians and avoid confrontation.

As we head towards the Twelfth, there is also a focus on bonfires and the role they can play in raising tensions and fuelling hatred.

It is incumbent on community representatives and bonfire builders to make sure pyres are a safe distance from property, minus toxic materials and unadorned by effigies, flags and posters.

We all want to enjoy a summer that is peaceful, calm and free from the behaviour and attitudes that have caused so much misery in the past.

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