Medway City of Sanctuary Meeting on January 14th
Here is a brief report of our meeting which took place on Thursday January 14th at Chatham Memorial Synagogue.
Stephen Goldsbrough opened the meeting by speaking about how far we have come in such a short space of time. A number of supporters of Medway City of Sanctuary have been heard on Radio Kent speaking up for refugees and situations related to the crisis as well as having news items published in the Medway Messenger, the Guardian and other media.
We have been able to offer support to Hala as she seeks a “safe and legal route” for her family from Syria. Sanctuary in Parliament gave seven of us including 2 refugee minors the opportunity to meet with MPs in December and lobby for an end to “destitution” and “unlimited detention” and for “safe and legal routes” for asylum seekers.
Although disappointed with Medway Council’s present decision not to help Syrian refugees we at least are now aware that 139 UASC (Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) are being looked after in the Medway area under the auspices of Kent County Council.
Nationally much has happened with dozens of the largest and most respected charities asking with one voice for the Government to raise its response to the current crisis. The Guardian Christmas appeal has raised a huge sum of money for 6 refugee charities one of which being City of Sanctuary.
Following this Meg Fulton spoke very movingly about her experiences on Lesvos where she has volunteered 3 times. Inspired herself by a British couple “pulling people from the water”, she in turn inspired the community of St Ethelburga in London to go altogether to Lesvos as volunteers to do what they could. See the stethelburgas.org/blog
After this we heard much about the sharp end of the British response from Jamie Piriou of the British Red Cross and the heartening news they have appointed workers to push forward with “Young Refugee Projects” in Gravesend, Gillingham and Maidstone.
The nitty gritty of our meeting involved brainstorming ideas of what we can do to make UASC welcome within our communities. The excellent feedback will prove useful in the not too distant future as our connections with refugees become more apparent.
Finally but not least Dr David Herling gave an excellent talk from the Jewish perspective on the importance of welcoming the foreigner in our midst.. while at the same time drawing from recent Jewish experience in relation to the Holocaust and his own personal story. Good enough to publish and this is our aim!
So many developments are happening every day in relation to this crisis and not all with happy endings, but through it all we remain committed to the moral compass of loving our neighbour as ourselves and making refugees welcome in our midst and sharing in the joy of our common humanity.
Our next meeting will take place at 7.30pm on Tuesday March 1st at Strood Evangelical Church 17 Darnley Road Strood ME2 2EU next to the Fish and Chip Shop. Provisionally booked to speak are Major Haris Giannaros who spent 9 weeks with refugees in Greece and Laura Teisler-Goldsmith (facebook page Help for Leros) who has made several aid trips to Calais and further afield to Greece itself.