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Belfast City of Sanctuary group has the aim to have Belfast City Council formally declare Belfast to be a ‘City of Sanctuary’. Other cities in the UK and Ireland have already done this.
To further that aim, we held a conference on Tuesday 29th March 2022 at Girdwood Community Hub with our Chair Sandra Griffiths introducing Councillor Kate Nicholl, the Lord Mayor of Belfast and welcoming our partners, members and guests to a busy morning of presentations and networking. We welcomed Councillor John Kyle and Councillor Malachai O’Hara who have committed to progress our wish to have Belfast declare itself a City of Sanctuary with all that this implies for people coming here,whether to shelter from the perils in their own home countries as refugees and asylum seekers or to study or work here.
We were joined by Nandi Jola, poet who read her poem ‘My Belfast’, Maryama Yuusuf telling us about her Belfast experience and by people travelling from Scotland, Bristol, Swansea, Galway and representatives from universities in Ireland and England. This was followed by presentations on Schools of Sanctuary in Northern Ireland of which we have now 50, hopefully to be joined by another 10 this year, and by presentations on Libraries of Sanctuary, Universities and Colleges of Sanctuary, Youth Work (presented by Damien Ekwueme of Diverse Youth NI and Lynda Whinnery of Youth Initiative NI) and by Homayoon Shirzad of Sanctuary Ambassadors, RoI.
A busy morning was completed with addresses from Gunn Orgun of City of Sanctuary UK and Tiffy Allen of Places of Sanctuary, Ireland.
What a wonderful morning this was, a firm foundation on which to build Belfast as a City of Sanctuary. The citizens of our city must do this together, embedding all the principles and values of the City of Sanctuary movement through these islands.
Many thanks to our Honorary Secretary, John O’Neill and our new Coordinator,Israel Eguaogie, formerly our Chair for the planning and execution of this morning’s programme. Thanks to our friend Michael for looking after the electronics.
“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Never forget this!