I have been a member of the Derby Holocaust Memorial Day planning group since 2001 and worked as an English language tutor at the Derby Refugee Resettlement Centre at Breadsall Hilltop for seventeen years and then in the city with refugee communities. I’m currently a member of the Derby City of Sanctuary Group, a volunteer and trustee of the Derby Refugee Advice Centre and an Additional Chaplain at Derby Cathedral.
City of Sanctuary is part of a national movement of local people and community groups committed to building a culture of welcome and safety in our cities, especially for those seeking sanctuary from genocide, war and persecution. Wherever people go we want them to feel safe and find people who welcome them. City of Sanctuary also values and celebrates the huge contribution refugees give in terms of their skills, culture and friendship. From my own experience Derby is a city which should be proud that it has received, supported and helped many people seeking asylum from genocide, persecution and war to rebuild their lives and continues to do. One refugee I know tells how a small act of kindness and a smile by a Derby person made her feel like a human being again for the first time in many years. Many communities have been allowed to flourish and feel part of Derby. Our city has been enriched by their contributions to our life and the cultural diversity they have created.
I also believe that those who flee as refugees to this country are a reminder to us. I believe they are the messengers of our world. They tell us before anyone else what’s happening in our world. They alert us to where all the cracks are. ..to the barbarity of war, to the ethnic cleansing and genocide, to human rights abuse, to religious persecution. To all the cruelty to which humanity will sink to harm its own kind. They touch us with the world’s need and show it to us and our first reaction to them should be one of compassion and new resolution to work for peace and justice.
Those who have been refugees or whose parents and grandparents were refugees are represented on the Holocaust Memorial Day planning group. I have learnt so much from them. I feel proud and privileged to work alongside them to keep the memory alive of genocides worldwide lest we forget and to remind us all that acts of prejudice, fear and hatred, however small, if not checked can escalate into mass crimes against humanity.