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The launch of Ipswich Town of Sanctuary

The launch took place Saturday 26th November 2011 and was hosted at University Campus Suffolk. There were 150 guests at the event which included not only Ipswich residents but guests from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Beccles and Felixstowe. There were many representatives from different faith groups. Bishop Nigel and his wife also attended the evening.

The aim of the launch was to gain a greater understanding of the City of Sanctuary movement and to recruit people to form a steering group to help direct the initiative in Ipswich and bring the project to fruition.

There were contributions from Ice and Fire Theatre Company, Nawroz Oramari a Kurdish singer, Minister Ivor Smith, Elaine Coltham Chair of Fairtrade in Ipswich, Dance East and Inderjit Bhogal, founder of the City of Sanctuary movement and former President of the British Methodist Conference.

Inderjit had himself come to the UK as a refugee in 1964. He explained that the City of Sanctuary movement was not about setting up new organisations, but encouraging people to work together to help those in need of refuge. He wanted many to share the vision of local people and local governments working together to welcome people in need. “There are sanctuaries in this country for donkeys and birds, so why not for people?”

Giving examples from Biblical times and from the history of our own country, he explained how the wish to offer sanctuary to those in need of safety and a welcome is a very old one.

In order to qualify for official Town of Sanctuary status, the local group needs many local organisations, including Ipswich Borough Council, to agree to support the movement by actively including and welcoming people seeking sanctuary fully into the life of the community. If this does happen, Ipswich will be the first area in the East of England to have achieved this goal.

The project has gained the support of Chris Mole former Labour MP for Ipswich and Ben Gummer Conservative MP for Ipswich along with 40 supporting organisations.

Once a steering group is formed Melissa Day said “I am keen to look at developing ‘Sanctuary Sunday’ an idea which is very much in the formative stages. 29th April is a possible date for ‘Sanctuary Sunday’. It would be a day dedicated to celebrating our history of sanctuary in the UK and within different faith groups and illustrating the importance of offering safety and welcome to people seeking sanctuary in our communities today”.