19th Oct, 2017

Peace vigil at Coventry Cathedral to reflect on refugee crisis

Les Reid 14th Sep, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

Coventry Cathedral is to hold a ‘peace vigil’ to reflect on the refugee crisis and other atrocities affecting war-torn countries.

It follows the UK’S decision to take in just 20,000 asylum seekers over five years, criticised as too little by Coventry Cathedral canon Dr Sarah Hills, who last week placed her sailing boat in the nave as a symbol of the refugees’ plight.

On Saturday September 26 from 6pm to 7pm, the peace vigil will take place under the porch that links the ruined medieval Cathedral with the modern building on the Queen’s Steps. All are welcome.

Canon for reconciliation, Dr Hills, said: “Many people have been affected by the recent refugee crisis, not to mention the long running conflicts in places such as Israel, Palestine and central Africa, and this is an opportunity for people from all faiths or none to come together to light a candle, pause for reflection and say a prayer.”

The Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry, a recent surmon, challenged the congregation, stating: “For me and for many, it has taken the particular image of the young boy face down on a beach in Turkey, to make it real………. now, there is a human face.

“For me, it’s the photograph of Aylan (Kurdi) and Galip (his brother) in a family photo. Ayla is fiddling with his ear with his right hand, and has a yellow zip top on. He looks bright, and smiling, if a little unsure besides his elder brother.

“All of a sudden, we have discovered our common humanity. For months – years – the refugees seeking entry to ‘our’ space have been ‘them’.

“Now, suddenly, many of have realised that this is about ‘us’ – the human family, in crisis.

“Issues of blame are no longer sufficient to barricade and protect us from responsibility. This is our problem: we are one human family, and our children are lying dead on a beach. We have to do something.”

As we reported last week, an old 14ft sailing dinghy has been placed in a prominent place in the cathedral to symbolise the appalling plight of men, women and children risking their lives in sailing across the Mediterranean – packed into hopelessly inadequate vessels – in hope of a better life in Europe.

All people are invited to go and see it, light candles or say prayers. Donations of money will go to the major charities providing shelter in refugee camps in affected countries, and the cathedral is considering whether to take clothes and other donations too.

Coventry City Council’s leader’s have expressed their willingness to do more to help people desperately fleeing war-torn Syria and other crisis-hit countries.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Coventry had until recently been one of just four UK cities welcoming refugees – mostly women and children – as part of the government’s Vulnerable People’s Relocation (VPR) programme.

Up to last week, 78 people have been relocated to the city and a further 29 were due to arrive in the next two months – equating to just over a third of the 216 people the government had granted asylum to under the scheme.

The scheme is co-ordinated by Coventry City Council, and delivered by charities.

Since last week, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Nottinghamshire and several London councils have been among those saying they will take more.

The government cannot force councils to accept refugees and it is not clear how soon the councils will take in refugees.

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