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Tiffy Allen imagines the difference City of Sanctuary could make

Imagine that your house has been destroyed, your family lost, and your whole life shattered by war tearing through the place you have always called home. Imagine that you scraped together your savings and found your way to a new country, a new city, somewhere that you believe you can be safe. You don’t know much of the language or culture, the new place is freezing cold, but you desperately want a new start. You’re scared, you’re traumatized, yet you know you have something to give – if only this society can let you have a chance. You’ve been rejected, you’ve been persecuted, you’ve been hated, and you’re afraid that this new community might not accept you. Imagine the difference it would make if your new neighbours, your new place of worship, the college where you study English, the surgery where you register, the offices where you have to fill in forms – if they made you feel welcome, wanted, valued.

City of Sanctuary is a national movement which seeks to create a culture of welcome and hospitality to people who have come to our cities seeking safety. The movement is finding expression all over the country, with a fast-growing group emerging in Leeds over the past few months.

The City of Sanctuary movement began in Sheffield five years ago, and since then has spread to over sixteen cities across UK. It is based around the idea that a society of welcome and inclusiveness is better for everyone. – an idea that is embedded in all faith groups. ‘Sanctuary’ is an ancient value, and it simply means a place where people, especially those fleeing danger, can feel safe and welcome. Indeed, the founders of many faiths were sanctuary-seekers themselves – Moses, Jesus and Mohammed all had to flee persecution at some stage in their lives.

In Leeds, we are aiming to create a partnership of people and organisations in all walks and stages of life right across the city, united in the goal to make our city more inclusive and welcoming. We recognize that asylum seekers and refugees come here seeking safety from persecution, war and trauma. We know that they have a positive contribution to make to Leeds, and we are committed to creating a ‘city of sanctuary’ here.

How Does City of Sanctuary Work?
So – what exactly happens? Well, we are starting with two simple actions. First, we have created a form which we’re asking individuals and organisations to sign. You can download the form by simply clicking https://www.cityofsanctuary.org/node/842 – and you can sign online if you like. We’d love you to take the form to your school, college, place of worship, business, or place of work. We hope that all sectors of society – education, health, sport, businesses, arts, faith groups, council, community groups, clubs and many more – will get involved. If this is a new idea to you, you may want to consider ways that you would like to express your commitment – please get in touch or look on the website for suggestions.

The second action is that in November we are planning a LAUNCH for Leeds City of Sanctuary. This will be a big celebration where people from all walks of society can meet each other, hear real life stories of people who have found Sanctuary in Leeds, find ways of getting involved, and celebrate the wonderful diversity our city reflects through music and food from all over the world. Look out on the website for the details!

If you are already involved in activities that welcome refugees, THANK YOU! Let us know what you are doing – we hope that through City of Sanctuary we will be able to publicise what you are doing and point important resources in your direction.

If you would like to hear more, please feel free to email [email protected]. For more information on the City of Sanctuary movement, please look at the website www.cityofsanctuary.org. At the bottom of the home page you’ll find a short film – it is less than ten minutes long and we guarantee that you’ll find it inspirational.

Tiffy Allen
City of Sanctuary Co-ordinator
Tel 07979484545
Email: [email protected]