Sanctuary Meetings project challenges the 'hostile environment'
Quakers in Britain have this week announced a new project to challenge the government policy of creating a 'hostile environment' for newcomers to Britain, and to replace it instead with a culture of welcoming hospitality.
The new Sanctuary Meetings project – launched at the Quakers' 1400-strong Yearly Meeting Gathering at Warwick University – invites local Quaker communities to commit to building a culture of welcome, challenging racism in all of its forms, and to working together to change the laws on destitution, detention and deportation.
Recognising the action being taken by many Quakers across Britain, local meetings will be provided with training support, regular teleconferences to learn from one-another and an annual retreat to reflect and recuperate.
The project also provides the framework to campaign on a joint manifesto for change, including restrictions on the use of immigration detention and the right for asylum seekers to work.
Sanctuary Meetings choose their actions based on local circumstances. This might involve hosting public meetings with migrant-led groups, assisting with campaigns to resist removals and deportations, supporting City of Sanctuary initiatives, or even establishing houses of hospitality where longer term residents and destitute asylum seekers live together.
To me sanctuary means giving help and assistance, not only to people fleeing from persecution but also people fleeing discrimination, from violence, from anything where they need protection.- Kurt Strauss, peace activist
Although the form of each Sanctuary Meeting is different, every meeting is united in the effort to persuade politicians to change the laws that sanction state violence against people not born in Britain.
In an online video, released to mark the launch, York Quaker and peace activist Kurt Strauss who was as a child helped by Quakers to escape Nazi persecution in 1939 explains:
“To me sanctuary means giving help and assistance, not only to people fleeing from persecution but also people fleeing discrimination, from violence, from anything where they need protection. If you're thinking of becoming a Sanctuary Meeting I would encourage you to go ahead."