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A very big thank you to everyone who was involved in organising Refugee Week activities in June and to all who supported events. Despite the restrictions, there was a great programme of events in Derby/s, that have raised awareness at the same time as providing great entertainment. So many thanks to you all, and we look forward to Refugee Week 2021!

Have a look at the moving picture montage for Refugee Week at this link from Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity , with beautiful music in the background by Rey on his Santor. 

The week ended with a special service at Derby Cathedral which was streamed live on facebook. Inderjit Bhogal, co founder of City of Sanctuary, was the invited speaker and here is what he had to say:


“And There Were Other Boats” (Mark 4:36)
We are all in our Noah’s Ark in our own homes with our families (and pets if we have them), our sanctuaries.
Life away from others is a daily reality to people who have been housebound for years. Religious communities have developed spiritualities that have required the need to “come away” for a while. We are familiar with the value of “retreat”.
Every household, every individual, in their own “cocoon” is a new place for us all, and requires us to come to ourselves, and imagine a new world.
Noah and his wife Naamah were in the Ark, with their family, and the animals with them, when it rained for forty days and forty nights. They were in the stormy rain and turbulent waters of the flood which eventually did subside (Genesis 6:14-7:12). They did not have a garden they could take a walk in, or social media for entertainment and communication. The story gives us the beautiful image of the Dove with an Olive leaf in the beak as a sign of cessation of conflict (Genesis 7:11), and then the rainbow (Genesis 9:13), with a spectrum of colours in an arch, as a symbol of hope for all creation. I like the image of a rainbow, insisting that there are many colours, not just one. And it looks like a bigger roof providing a more inclusive shelter.
The next Ark we come across in the Bible is the Ark as a “sanctuary” for God (Exodus 25:8) to symbolise God dwelling in the midst of people. This is image we have to hold in our mind when we read the words of John 1:14 “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, a development of the words of Exodus 25:8.
The Ark represents a sanctuary for its inhabitants. Noah’s Ark is a sanctuary for all those in a safe space with him.
This image grows into the Biblical vision that everyone will have their own Ark, a house in fact, with their own garden (see for example Isaiah 65:21), so that no one is without a roof over their head; and no one is afraid that their house will be destroyed or their livelihood plundered.
This ideal remains a dream that has not been achieved. History is littered with stories of exactly the opposite. Homes and gardens destroyed.
The shameful fact is that today there are 70 million refugees, a new all-time high, an unprecedented global situation. This includes 28 million people who are internally displaced. City of Sanctuary Sheffield, and City of Sanctuary Derby have built up vast networks of partners, volunteers and supporters.
We can work with them now to build the idea of “virtual sanctuary” to nurture and sustain the sense of belonging, friendship and support by:
• Developing ways to keep people connected and supported, and ensure all asylum seekers in accommodation have WiFi connection
• WhatsApp Groups with personal messages of encouragement and practical tips, food deliveries, financial support and learning languages
• Maintaining contacts for legal and health matters through remote service delivery, critical in ensuring pathways to justice and guidelines on rights are not disrupted
• Maintaining telephone check-ins
• Supporting home schooling with teaching support and laptops
• Directing supporters to online petitions
You and your congregation and organisation can support work like this with offers of help and donations through the website, and join campaigns like Lift the Ban aimed at giving asylum seekers the right to work. Link up and maintain contact with refugees as you are able to.
Within all their other priorities refugees and asylum seekers have a great spirit of helping and surviving. One of my friends, a refugee from Liberia, has mobilised people to form a choir, and arranges worship and pastoral support. He is providing training on mental wellbeing. He is a dedicated worker providing incredible support to other refugees from a knowledge of personal trauma. He insists need to create empathy more than sympathy.
I thank you for all your good work.
Bless you, Inderjit Bhogal, 21 June 2020