Preston City of Sanctuary Launch on Monday 27th February 2017 was a success where members from a diverse range of community groups: Catholic and Anglican leaders, mosque leaders, City Council leader and mayor attended in one of Preston’s most beautiful buildings to show solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees.
One member of our Syrian community gave a moving speech from his perspective about adapting to our city where he said that ‘we have been pleased and surprised at the welcome and support we have received from neighbours and the wider community’.
A Syrian mother and daughter provided Syrian snacks to welcome the visitors to the launch event. This was one of many great ways to help our Syrian families feel part of our community.
Preston City of Sanctuary booked the exciting multi-media display ‘Escape to Safety’ during the week which coincided with the launch on Monday 27th February 2017.
Escape to Safety was created some years ago by Global Link, based in Lancaster, and has toured to hundreds of schools across the UK. It made a rare appearance to the public in Preston, thanks to Awards for All Lottery funding.
It attempts to show the refugee experience as people from Sudan, Afghanistan and Iran escape to safety. It is interactive installation, giving participants a sense by experiencing a little of what desperate people seeking sanctuary go through as they flee persecution, violence and a threat of death.
Unlike refugees who pay to travel long distances in search of safety, the Escape to Safety journey is free, and only takes 15 minutes. Once participants have negotiated their way past the ‘border guard’, they listen to three refugee voices on a soundtrack as they journey through eight small rooms which represent different stages on their journey to seek asylum in the UK.
For more information about the Escape to Safety exhibition see http://www.globallink.org.uk/page.php?id=184
The exhibition week was managed and well-attended by members of faith groups, the council and members of the public, where we raised £100 for the City of Sanctuary projects.
Volunteers from different backgrounds gave at least three hours of their time to give guidance to other visitors to the exhibition.
Feelings from visitors to the exhibition encouraged discussion and debate. Words expressed were that the exhibition was:
‘an effective and educational way to dispel myths and stereotypes’
‘really impactful and thought-provoking; a reminder that people are sadly suffering in many different places in many different ways. I wish everyone in the UK could experience the exhibition to help them really understand, empathise, show and share more love.’
‘…puts the experience in a logical perspective to see cause and effect’
Many visitors expressed an interest to contribute to the City of Sanctuary in various ways, mainly by taking part in ongoing voluntary Language Support classes for asylum seekers and refugees.
As a result of this, already existent classes will be able to expand with an increasing number of volunteers. In addition, many mosques and churches have offered their premises to hold such events.
Also, words of encouragement to people who were involved in setting up the exhibition and the continue with great work at the City of Sanctuary:
‘Thanks, too, for those in authority who made the decision to make Preston a City of Sanctuary.’
‘…proud of our city for hosting this exhibition and declaring ourselves a City of Sanctuary. May it help us to see ourselves as a global community and open our hearts to brothers and sisters wherever they come from.’
We would like to use this opportunity to thank all who supported us in preparation and during this significant event. It was truly an amazing day and the St John’s Minster was filled with an incredible energy but also a unified commitment to continue make our city a strong and diverse place embracing integration as an opportunities for the whole community.
Members of City of Sanctuary are further inspired and looking forward to planning more events in the near future.