City of Sanctuary UK stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in calling for justice and the need to address the root causes of racism. We stand firmly in solidarity with all those who struggle against racism and xenophobia.
As an organisation with a vision of welcome for ALL we acknowledge that we cannot be welcoming until every person is treated equally and can live safely in their communities without fear or discrimination.
We have taken time to reflect as an organisation, and have begun discussions with people with lived experience of seeking sanctuary, staff and trustees. We wanted any public statement on the historical moment we are living through to demonstrate a real commitment to identifying what City of Sanctuary UK and its network can do to improve its support for anti-racism and the role we can play to support change.
For some time we have recognised that as an organisation and network we need to do more to ensure our values of inclusiveness, openness and participation are enshrined in everything we do. We have been working to ensure people with lived experience are at the centre of our work, and to that end we have been running Sanctuary in Politics courses, developing opportunities for participation in our Experts by Experience Advisory Group, Network Voice and Governance. We also have been working to improve events to ensure that they are led by people with lived experience. However, we know that we can and need to do much more to address privilege and power within the organisation and network. In calling out our weaknesses we hope to encourage others to do the same, change starts with owning our mistakes.
As reflected in our theory of change we believe that bringing people together to create opportunities for friendship and solidarity will create change, so we welcome input and ideas on how to become better at being anti-racist, both as an organisation and as individuals. We fully acknowledge it is our responsibility to learn how to do better, and not place further burden on those with lived experience to teach us.
There’s a lot to do but we’re sharing here some of the steps we have started to take to give meaning to these words:
- We are increasing our efforts to ensure the meaningful participation and engagement of people with lived experience in our organisation, network and wider movement;
- We know we have much to learn, so we are seeking to educate ourselves as a staff team, and will be exploring ways in which we can support the CoS groups across our network to do the same (we will start by developing a resource page on our website and will be undertaking a anti-racist analysis of our website);
- We are encouraging opportunities for our staff team to read, discuss and learn more about how to be active anti-racists, including how we can confidently challenge misguided opinions and actively respond if we witness racism;
- We will be working with our network of groups and our wider movement to examine in what ways we can be better allies in the fight against racism, as a first step we will facilitate a webinar;
- We will look to examine what role we can play in influencing the wider discussions on racial injustice to include attitudes to people seeking sanctuary;
- We acknowledge the hostile environment is a racist environment and we will strengthen our links with other organisations in calling for the need to address structural racism and for changes to immigration policy.
We welcome feedback and contributions from the network and the wider movement. We also recognise that we have not always done things right and we will not always get things right. We hope that our partners in this effort to fight racism will offer us grace when we are wrong and share in opportunities to learn.