A community of compassion

27th June 2023 | Diocese

The Clewer Initiative

At the end of June, hundreds of people gathered in Canterbury Cathedral to mark Refugee Week and learn more about how modern slavery can impact refugees.

Highlights from 'A community of compassion'

The three day programme, which was organised by Diocese of Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) and The Clewer Initiative included a hard-hitting exhibition, art workshops for 100 secondary school pupils, a panel discussion and Q&A and a marketplace of stalls, showcasing various modern slavery tools and resources.

We brought together representatives from faith communities, charities, civic and community organisations, youth ambassadors, local community champions and school children to explore the role communities can play in protecting vulnerable people from exploitation.

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Caroline Virgo, director of The Clewer Initiative, comments: “Throughout the week, there were many opportunities to draw attention to the link between modern slavery and refugees. Because refugees are vulnerable, they can be at risk of being targeted by criminal gangs and drawn into modern slavery and exploitation. We wanted everyone who attended the events to understand this correlation and leave with a clear understanding of the warning signs to look out for. We also wanted to devote time to discussing the role of the church in exemplifying what a compassionate community looks like. There were many lively conversations about the importance of building compassionate and resilient communities where modern slavery and exploitation cannot take root.

“We talked a lot about the importance of sharing stories that can help inform the bigger narrative. When we hear stories of individual refugee families with names, personalities, hobbies and vocations who have found friendship and safety in the UK, we start to put a human face on the enormous statistics and have a clearer sense of how we, as a church, can make a difference. The moving performance from the Marsh Family also helped to do this. The song, which they wrote for Refugee Week, shares stories of rubble, sirens, nightmares, cold, hunger and mines and speaks of the hope of seeing a loved one again.”

Why did the Marsh Family get involved with Refugee Week?

Other highlights from the week:

  • Around 100 young people from different countries engaged with the ‘Hear my voice’ exhibition, reflecting more on the plight of refugees, our shared humanity and the horrors of modern slavery. A significant percentage of young refugees who were in the process of learning English as a second language attended the schools day with their peers.
  • Domenica Pecoraro, the Kent Refugee Project Office and Church of England National Community Sponsorship Representative highlighted the power of Community Sponsorship – a Church of England initiative where parishes and dioceses work closely with local authorities and other community partners to provide practical care for refugees
  • Several young ambassadors from KRAN attended the event and spoke during the panel and question time
  • Important opportunities to forge partnerships as 70 frontline workers and people from statutory organisations gathered to discuss our corporate response of compassion
  • The Market Place with stalls from CWR, Napier Friends, KRAN, The Clewer Initiative, Canterbury for Ukraine, Samphire. This was a brilliant time for information sharing and signposting resources including The Clewer Initiative’s new refugee toolkit
  • And So We Move On – a film from The Clewer Initiative that communicates stories of migration and exploitation

Caroline Virgo, Domenica Pecoraro, David Monteith, Anastasia Skelton and Alfie Marsh share their thoughts on the events at Canterbury Cathedral

The Marsh Family's new song, written to coincide with Refugee Week

In school, we can talk about issues affecting refugees but to see the artwork, poems and kites enables students to engage and experience it in a totally different way. Hopefully they will take what they have learnt about modern slavery into their daily lives and spread the message by telling their friends and family.

Ian Rich
Chaplain at The John Wallis Church of England Academy

And So We Move On - a story of migration and exploitation

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