Who We Are

Who we are, and what we do, in the words of Reverend Richard Kerr, a member of the EMBRACE Committee:

EMBRACE is a group of Christians from different denominations working together to promote a positive response to people who are seeking asylum, refugees, migrant workers and people from minority-ethnic backgrounds living in Northern Ireland. 

The charity was launched in October 2003, and is registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (NIC100294).


EMBRACE is run by a Committee of elected and co-opted volunteers, representing a variety of church backgrounds. They bring a richness of knowledge and experience in understanding migration, relating across cultures, advocacy, legislation and theology. Elections to Committee are held annually at the AGM.

Committee: September 2020

  • Scott Boldt – Chairperson
  • Malini Colville – Vice-Chairperson
  • Michael Potter – Treasurer
  • Paula McKeown – Secretary
  • Irene Jovaras
  • Richard Kerr
  • David Smyth
  • Denise Wright


EMBRACE began as a support group for refugees and people seeking asylum. We now see our main role as one of encouraging church communities to make this a more welcoming place for all people from other countries and minority-ethnic backgrounds.

It began informally in 2001 as individuals from different denominations became increasingly concerned about the difficulties facing refugees and people seeking asylum in this country. They wanted to do more than talk and were committed to finding a way of responding in a Gospel manner to the new strangers in our midst.

A focus group was formed which met with organisations such as NICEM, the Red Cross, the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Law Centre, as its members sought to educate themselves about the issues involved. It also hosted several seminars in St Clement’s retreat house in order to inform and to raise awareness of the local situation.

The next step was to contact interested people from the other Churches. Very quickly an inter-church committee was formed and from this EMBRACE was born.

The official launch of EMBRACE took place on 22nd October 2003 in the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast. The Rev. Arlington Trotman, Secretary of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Commission for Racial Justice, spoke at the launch, welcoming this initiative.


Our vision is to promote a positive response to minority ethnic people in Northern Ireland. We seek to equip the church to fulfil its call to welcome the stranger, by providing information, training, resource materials and channels for practical help.

EMBRACE seeks to:

  • Reflect gospel values of compassion, hospitality and justice
  • Raise awareness and provide information, resources and training
  • Respond to those in need by acting as a channel for voluntary assistance
  • Support people by human rights and welfare advocacy
  • Network with relevant agencies and groups
  • Make informed responses on issues of public policy


EMBRACE seeks to stand alongside minority ethnic people, immigrants and those seeking asylum in matters of human rights; this may involve anti-racism training and taking part in events which raise awareness of issues relating to the welfare and rights of immigrant people. It may also mean communicating their situation and needs, and highlighting concerns in areas such as housing, education, language support, health and detention to the appropriate decision makers in local and national government.