Our group is secular consisting of people of all faiths and none but is united by our belief that people seeking sanctuary should be made welcome. Our Chair is a retired CoE Minister and the following words are an extract from a magazine article she wrote last week.
‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’. (Matt 25)
Last Sunday ( as I write) I spent my day enjoying the company of forty people –
families and single men/women – from several different countries. They came from
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Iran, and Iraq. The one
thing that united them, however, was that they were all traumatised people seeking
sanctuary in the UK: refugees currently living in Swansea.
All of us were guests of the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees
group, who were hosting one of their many ‘Welcome Days’; this time in the
beautiful location of a country estate. Along with over thirty volunteers and members of
the local community we celebrated both ‘Refugee Week’ and the ‘Great Get
Together’ (the annual commemoration of the life and ideals of Jo Cox, MP). There
was music, pony rides, drama, crafts, plenty of food and much laughter. It was so
good to see people who are leading such stressful lives, unable to go back and
often barred from going forward, relaxing and sharing each other’s company.
The United Nations defines a refugee as ‘someone who has been forced to flee his
or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-
founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion
or membership in a particular social group.’ Official current estimates reveal that
over 65 million people worldwide are refugees: the majority of them having fled to
places of safety within their own national borders or into adjoining countries. Some
others head for Europe; but the UK accepts only a very small percentage of these.
Those seeking sanctuary in our country also need welcoming and
support. Swansea, (along with Cardiff and Newport,) is a designated ‘dispersal
centre’; a place to which the government sends those who are applying for asylum
in the UK. Syrian families, accepted into Powys under the official ‘Vulnerable
Persons Resettlement Programme’ live in Ystradgynlais, Newtown and Llandrindod Wells.
And throughout south and mid Wales there are many unaccompanied children who
have found safety in foster homes but who feel isolated from one another. All need
to feel welcomed.
One thing we can all do is to inform ourselves of the facts about refugees so
that we challenge the prejudice and hate – which is so insidious in our society.