Monday 25 June 2012

Refugee Week – A taste of heaven!

Over the last week, Bradfordians have celebrated the lives of refugees and asylum seekers who have come to live in our city, and there have been parties, music, dance and much merriment. This is not always the images that come to our mind when we think about the plight of refugees and those who are seeking sanctuary in our midst. We normally have images that are negative, either of their stories of escaping torture, persecution and conflict, or of the negative images often given to them by the media.

But the lives of refugees and sanctuary seekers (a more helpful term than 'asylum seekers') are often ones of triumph over adversity, and when we have close encounters with this community, there is much evidence of joy and happiness. They mainly come from places where faith is very strong, and they have trusted God with there lives and their futures – they know that God has walked with them.

It is this walk of faith and justice that was celebrated on Wednesday. BEACON (Bradford Ecumenical Asylum Seeker Concern) organised the third of its annual walks to Leeds Waterside Reporting Centre. The walk passes the Thornbury Tribunal Courts where thousands of sanctuary seekers have gone to argue their case before a judge. The walk continues to the canal, then on to the place in Leeds where sanctuary seekers have to report on a weekly or monthly basis.

The walk started as a protest of how some people were forced to make this long walk every week without any travel costs paid. However, now it is a chance to show solidarity with all those who have to face the long walk for justice, a journey towards hope and sanctuary.

This week, we can give thanks to God for our own security, for our homes, for the safety of our families. We can give thanks that we live in a society free of organised torture and political imprisonment. Refugee Week has given us a chance to be thankful for the many organisations in Bradford that exist to support those who have had to flee such horrors. We have much to learn from those who can escape such trials and still hold on to a rich and joyful faith.

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