Welcome boost for Ripon City of Sanctuary
Ripon Cathedral was the setting for a vigil during Refugee Week this June as we remembered the 10,000 people the United Nations estimates have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach sanctuary.
The vigil, in the Chapel of Justice and Peace was part of the cathedral’s continuing support for the Ripon City of Sanctuary movement which was founded four years ago.
The group was set up following a national outcry over the high profile drowning of a young boy, Alan Kurdi, off the Greek coast. It’s aim is to raise awareness of the issues faced by asylum seekers and refugees and to offer them a welcome and practical help.
The vigil, attended by the Mayor of Ripon, Cllr Eamon Parkin, was mainly a time of silent prayer and reflection with an opportunity to light a candle and leave a prayer card on the altar. The prayer station will remain in the cathedral all week.
On Thursday June 20 at 7pm Thorpe Prebend will stage a special reading of poems written by an Arab refugee, Dr Ahmed Khaleel, which will be attended by the Mayor of Harrogate, Cllr Stuart Martin.
Momentum is building for the City of Sanctuary group, which now has around 100 supporters. One school in Ripon, Outwood Primary Academy Greystone, achieved the nationally approved School of Sanctuary status two years ago. Eight others in Ripon, Masham and Kirkby Malzeard are enroute to gaining similar status. To gain the award, schools have to learn about what it means to be seeking asylum; take positive action to embed the concepts of welcome, safety and inclusion and share that vision and the school’s achievements.
The Ripon City of Sanctuary group has established strong links with similar groups in Harrogate and Knaresborough where two more schools, Grove Road Primary School in Harrogate and Springwater in Starbeck, have also gained School of Sanctuary status.
Between the three groups there are now 16 families of refugees or asylum seekers in the area being helped to settle and feel confident in their communities through assistance with English classes and help in finding jobs. One member of the Syrian families in Ripon is working with Oxfam.
Ripon Cathedral has been an active supporter of the group in Ripon through its Cathedral Community Relations (C3) group founded in September 2016. The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said: “It’s clear from the Bible that there have been many times in the history of God’s people when they have found themselves to be strangers in a foreign land. An example, which many people have heard is the story of Joseph (of dream coat fame) and his brothers ending up in Egypt. Perhaps this is why it was made clear to them before entering the Promised Land that they should care for strangers and foreigners. Jesus himself of course began life as a refugee in Egypt. It is right then that the church should be taking a lead with others in this country who wish to extend the hand of friendship and support to those who come seeking refuge.”
In March Thorpe Prebend staged a talk by Gulwali Passarlay who fled for safety as a child refugee from Afghanistan aged 12 and spent a year seeking sanctuary, spending time in prison and narrowly escaping drowning. He was fostered in Britain, went on to carry the Olympic torch and now works as a global youth ambassador.
The cathedral hosted a visit in April by 50 asylum seekers and refugees covering nine nationalities from the Hull area when Chaplain David Kibble offered a welcome in English and Arabic and prayed in both languages for refugees and vulnerable people around the world.
One seven-year-old boy was asked at the end of the morning what he would like to do in the afternoon and replied he would like to buy flowers for everyone as the day had been so special.
Ripon City of Sanctuary will have a stall in the market square on Thursday June 20 from 10am to 3pm; stop by and chat about their work and refugee issues. There will also be a display at Ripon Library this week. To find out more about Ripon City of Sanctuary or become a supporter, please contact Yvonne Jefferies by emailing email@example.com.