People representing groups from over 20 towns and cities, from Glasgow to Portsmouth, came to our first City of Sanctuary national conference on 4th June to share ideas about how to build their own local Cities (or Towns or Villages) of Sanctuary.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, told participants that City of Sanctuary is a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to build a culture that welcomes people in need of sanctuary. ‘A culture of welcome can’t be imposed,’ she emphasised. But as with changing attitudes to the environment or fair trade, huge changes can happen from ‘good folk coming together’ to influence their own communities.
We also heard about the development of City of Sanctuary in Sheffield and Leicester, as well as the history of different sanctuary movements through history, in a talk by Prof. Paul Weller of Derby University.
The next stage is for people in their own towns and cities to create working groups, which will start to build local movements of solidarity and support for people seeking sanctuary. These groups will become part of our national City of Sanctuary network which has its next meeting in Leicester on 16th July.