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Belfast: ‘Towards a City of Sanctuary’ Conference

Under funding from the Big Lottery, Belfast City of Sanctuary (BCoS) organised a conference on 29th March 2022 at the Girdwood Community hub in Belfast. The aim of this conference was to familiarise key public bodies and NGOs with the City of Sanctuary concept and to showcase related initiatives including Schools of Sanctuary, Libraries of Sanctuary, Universities/Colleges of Sanctuary and youth work as a prelude to the potential designation of Belfast as a City of Sanctuary by the City Council this year.

Belfast City of Sanctuary were kind enough to invite Swansea City of Sanctuary to this conference! Swansea representatives, Cerian Appleby and Otis Bolamu, gave a speech. Cerian is a teacher representing St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School, which became School of Sanctuary in Swansea in 2019. Otis Bolamu is a Human Rights Activist and refugee, who represented Swansea City of Sanctuary.

Their main objective, as with every City of Sanctuary, is to promote and build a culture of welcome and hostility for people seeking Sanctuary and a home in Belfast.

Four essential points were underlined:

  1. To promote the inclusion and welfare of refugees, asylum seekers and members of new communities, by encouraging the citizens of Belfast and their public bodies to make a public commitment to becoming a place of welcome and safety by adopting the title of “City of Sanctuary”.
  2. To encourage and support local communities, public bodies and voluntary, community,  educational, health,  business, trade union, sports, cultural and faith organisations in welcoming and assisting asylum seekers, refugees and members of news communities.
  3. To publicise and celebrate the contribution of asylum seekers,  refugees and members of news communities, to their local communities,  and to their shared society, and to challenge hostility,  prejudice and discrimination against them.
  4. To ensure that the membership and activities of BCoS, including the Management Committee, reflect the ethos of partnership between the host Community and Asylum seekers, refugees and members of new communities and their representative bodies.

We were very grateful to have been invited to this conference, and look forward to seeing what the future holds for Belfast City of Sanctuary!

Images and information courtesy of Otis.