Celebrating Refugee Week in Canterbury Cathedral

18th May 2023 | Diocese

The Clewer Initiative

To coincide with Refugee Week, the Diocese of Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) and The Clewer Initiative have teamed up to organise a three day programme of activity, entitled 'A community of compassion'.

The programme (20-22 June) will include the hard-hitting exhibition, Hear my Voice; art workshops for secondary school pupils, a panel discussion and Q&A and a marketplace of stalls, showcasing various modern slavery tools and resources.

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The Revd Dr Jonathan Arnold, Executive Director of The Social Justice Network at Diocese of Canterbury, explains: “As a Diocese, we always try to do something to mark Refugee Week. More recently, we have delighted in a collaboration with Canterbury Cathedral. Last year, Revd Dr Emma Pennington, Canon Missioner at the Cathedral, led a mulit-agency refugee project board that organised a concert of words and music about migration and exile, supported by the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, with performers Lemn Sissay, Stile Antico, and Rihab Azar رحاب عازار.

"This year, the project board decided to build on Ely Cathedral’s experience of hosting Hear my Voice and, with the help of The Clewer Initiative, organise a three-day programme of events for different groups of people, all centring around the exhibition and art project.

“We are looking forward to bringing together representatives from faith communities, charities, civic and community organisations such as Kent Police and Kent County Council, youth ambassadors, local community champions and school children to learn more about modern slavery and how it can impact refugees.

“Through the talks, panel discussions and educational art workshops, we hope to break down some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding refugees and asylum seekers and build greater understanding and compassion between different nations, cultures and backgrounds. We will explore the role communities can play in protecting vulnerable people from exploitation and think further about how we can build compassionate and resilient communities where refugees are welcome, can integrate and thrive. As the people of God, we want to be a voice of welcome and understanding and live out our faith by showing love and support to people who have been exiled.

“Our desire for the week is that we will start important conversations about what it is like to move to the UK, leaving behind homes, jobs, families and belongings, and to understand more fully the hopes and fears of refugees in our communities. We want to think about how we can respond with compassion to people in need of international protection and work together to reduce the risk of exploitation."

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Domenica Pecoraro, the Kent Refugee Project Office and Church of England National Community Sponsorship Representative, comments: “I cannot wait for our Community of Compassion events to begin. Through the varied programme, we hope to give people the tools they need to fight modern slavery in their communities. We want to raise awareness of how people in need of international protection can be exploited and think further about how faith and secular organisations can work together to provide a genuine welcome and protection from modern slavery.

"Through Community Sponsorship, I have seen first-hand the transformative power of communities working together to help welcome and settle refugee families and I know this sort of community response can prevent vulnerable people from getting enslaved. We are bringing together dozens of key stakeholders from across the county to hear more about the local context and foster new partnerships and we believe the week will be a significant springboard for future work.”

Jonathan continues: “Prior to Refugee Week, we are also organising an eight-week series of free evening talks on the “The Works of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ. ” These talks will be given by individuals who work with the most vulnerable in our society such as a homeless chaplain, former hospital chaplain and a prison chaplain. On Thurs 22 June, in the middle of Refugee Week, Dominica Pecoraro, the Diocesan Refugee Officer and Church of England's National Community Sponsorship Representative will be speaking on Welcome the Stranger. We hope these talks will provide a helpful and stimulating build up to Refugee Week.”

The events in Canterbury Cathedral are open to the general public so if you are in the vicinity, please look out for them! We will share footage of the event on our socials in late June!

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