Inderjit Bhogal is Leader of the Corrymeela Community
Inderjit Bhogal is the founder and President of City of Sanctuary
NOMAD is an organisation that has been working in Sheffield since 1989, to my knowledge. NOMAD began in 1989 when Jacky who had experienced homelessness with children, and Barrie who had experienced homelessness as a single man, made a commitment to form an agency to assist homeless people in Sheffield. Jacky and Barrie commenced their work without any resources, from the kitchen of a Council maisonette. My understanding, from conversations with Jacky and Barry, is that the name NOMAD originated in their experiences of receiving the answer “no” so often to their requests for help that it drove them “mad”, hence NOMAD!
One of the first initiatives that Jacky and Barrie took was to organise a Christmas meal in the maisonette for people who found themselves roofless over the festive period. They were overwhelmed but not surprised by the numbers  who turned up. They also found accommodation for six individuals.
The story of NOMAD caught the attention of many of us who were concerned about homelessness. NOMAD had already illustrated that when the will is there much support can be given even when resources are tiny. A small group of us from different voluntary and religious organisation met with representatives of NOMAD on 5.9.90 and 1.10.90 to consider the provision of support for homeless and roofless people over the Christmas – New Year period of 1990/91. The meetings identified the need for premeses, finance, provisions and volunteer support. The premises at Carver Street Wesley Methodist Church [now an Australian theme Bar] were offered as a Night Shelter. A building [Club 81] was also offered as a day centre.
As a result the group calling itself SHOC (Sheffield Homeless Open Christmas) launched an appeal for £10,000, and enough volunteers to provide shelter, friendship, food and clothing for those who would otherwise find themselves isolated, lonely, and even roofless over the festive season. The response was excellent. We received £15,000, over a hundred volunteers offered to help, and there were many contributions of food, clothing and bedding. Over the Christmas period, up to 25 people took shelter each night at Carver St Wesley, and up to 80 people made use of the day centre.
We had to find an alternative name to SHOC since there was another organisation using the same title, and after some discussion came up with Homeless and Roofless at Christmas [HARC]. The word Roofless was changed to Rootless soon.
I know, from Minutes of meetings, that the initial group of people who started HARC included: Inderjit Bhogal, Briony Broome, Margaret Chamings, Phyllis Cooper, Philip Drake, Rachel Frith, Howard Long, Bob Townrow, Judith Tucker, Barrie Sefton and Chris Sissons. Numerous others joined in later, of course, but these are the founding members. Jacky Hague never came along to meetings. We appointed Margaret Chamings as the Coordinator, and I was appointed the first official Chair of HARC.
Other people who were very hard workers with HARC included Captain Alan Turner of the Church Army, Jenny Hales, Mavis Percy and Bill Emmingham. There are, of course, many others and the problem of starting to list names is that some are left out.
We worked as small groups under the titles of: Premeses, Finance and Provisions, and Support & Publicity.
Each group worked very conscientiously, and with great care. Well before the days of Risk Assessments, we paid close attention to Fire, Health and Safety needs. Each volunteer went through training sessions. No one was allowed to work with HARC without proper training.
As it developed, HARC donated some of the surplus money to other organisations working alongside homeless and rootless people in Sheffield. HARC also initiated and sponsored a new Sunday centre which also started life in the Carver St Wesley buildings.
We adopted a Constitution, and began to take the shape of an organisation.
I believed that the work of HARC would be quite temporary and that there would soon be long term provision, including adequate housing for all. I was convinced that
the kind of initiatives taken by groups like HARC will not eradicate need. Only adequate housing and affordable homes would do that.
In 1990 we made a financial appeal for £10,000 and received £15,000. In 1991 we made a financial appeal for £16,000, and received £24,000. In 1992 we appealed for £20,000 and met our target again. In addition to money there were generous gifts of food, clothing, bedding and premises…. And most important of all people gave themselves – as volunteers, over 100 each year. This response said to me that the people of Sheffield were disturbed and bothered by the levels of homelessness among us, and wanted to support any initiatives being taken to stand alongside homeless people.
Twenty years ago I said in speeches that it is unjust that anyone in Britain is homeless; that there are sufficient resources within this country, even in the depths of a recession – or depression – to end homelessness. The levels of homelessness in this country are scandalous. The kind of initiatives taken by groups like HARC up and down the country are good, but they will not end homelessness – only the provision of adequate and affordable housing will do that. What we can offer is compassion and friendship. We will do what we can within our human and material means. We will support the work of organisations such as Shelter at the national level, and NOMAD at the local level which campaign alongside homeless people for justice. While the initiatives taken by groups like HAC will no eradicate homelessness, they do illustrate the concern that exists over homelessness, and what can be done even where resources are small. The City-wide response to HARC has brought people from different religious political persuasions to stand alongside the homeless and form a deep fellowship with those who find themselves homeless and rootless.
Justice requires the provision of adequate and affordable housing. It is a basic human right, for each human being, to have a home, a permanent home. It is to government, at local and national level, that we look for such justice, and meeting of basic human rights.
We all have to do what we can, and we can all do something to achieve justice.
Sadly twenty years on we are in an economic recession again.
For twenty years HARC has offered support and worked with homeless and rootless people in our city. HARC does what can be done within limited resources. In no way is HARC has provided a transitional, resting place, warmth and food and friendship. The Sunday Centre [now based in Victoria Hall], has continued to provide a service. NOMAD continues to provide an essential service.
The need remains. The situation is more complex. Those needing the support of HARC and the Sunday Centre include destitute people seeking Sanctuary among us.
I don’t know where Jacky and Barry are now, but they’ve left a lasting legacy in Sheffield.
Have you ever found yourself asking what do a modern city and the Bible really have in common? How does faith fit in with how we live our lives in a city which is changing as fast as York?
In previous years CoRE, the York City Centre Churches Care and Development Trust played host to the Bishop of Selby, Martin Wallace who has talked about faith and the city of York. Last year the talks were so well attended even the standing room was full. The themes clearly touched a chord with the audience.
For the 2010 Lent talks five guest speakers offered their views on faith in society today. Each explored a different topic covering volunteers, the traditions of feasting and fasting, commerce, education and health.
The Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal OBE spoke on the 1st March exploring the traditions of feasting and fasting.
Click here to read Inderjit’s talk.
The term “Asylum Seeker” should be dropped. Don’t use it. I argued this in an article for the Methodist Recorder in April 2001. It is better to recognise instead that there are people seeking or taking Sanctuary. There is an urgent need for a new and alternative vocabulary in the whole Immigration debate which will again become a hot topic in the weeks leading up to the General Election.
The term asylum has a historical use and connotation. It has been used to refer to institutions giving shelter and support to people suffering from mental illness who were considered to be a threat to society. Such places, where people were placed and forgotten about, belong to a bygone era. Such a use of the term is discontinued. It smacks of degradation and indignity. Why use such a term to refer to people desperate for the protection of their lives?
“Asylum Seeker” is a term that has come to be synonymous with economic or illegal immigrants, benefit cheats and criminality, rather than as referring to people seeking safety from persecution and torture.
I welcome the report by The Independent Asylum Commission [March 2008] which uses the term “those seeking sanctuary” to refer to those fleeing persecution and looking for protection.
The law should safeguard human rights and provide protection for the most vulnerable. Alongside the law, there is a moral and spiritual obligation on us all to provide sanctuary for those whose lives are in danger. There are sanctuaries for Donkeys, Seals, Whales, and so on. Why not Sanctuary for human beings?
On 18th June 2007, during Refugee Week, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield pronounced from the steps of the City Town Hall that Sheffield City Council had declared support for Sheffield as a City of Sanctuary.
When I first shared the idea of Sheffield as a City of Sanctuary at a meeting in September 2005, I expected us to work four or five years to realise our objective. But after just two years we’d become a national movement and had the support the Refugee Council. We have held two national conferences in Sheffield. The idea of Sanctuary is catching the imagination of people.
I want to share the story of our achievement.
The objective of the City of Sanctuary movement in Sheffield is to create a culture of welcome and hospitality for those seeking sanctuary, Refugees and other vulnerable migrants among us.
This work is urgent and important in our times of open hostility and hatred towards people who come here seeking protection and security – fleeing the torture of persecution or poverty.
I came to UK with my family as a refugee in 1964.
Over the last 40 years I have observed, and often challenged oppressive developments in our Immigration and Asylum laws and procedures.
About 30 years ago, I became part of a movement of churchy and not so churchy people to challenge these developments by protesting against unjust deportations. Sometimes this protest involved people taking sanctuary in Churches or Mosques…..not to avoid or evade law but to challenge it publicly, and to seek a response from Government. For a while [in the mid 1980’s] I chaired the Sanctuary Working Group of the British Council of Churches’ Committee for Race Relations. We prepared guidelines for Churches on the whole theme of Sanctuary.
I have especially continued to seek a fair deal for “Asylum Seekers”. In 1997 I walked all the way from the steps of Sheffield Town Hall to 10 Downing Street with a letter to the Prime Minister asking that “Asylum Seekers” should not be detained in conventional prisons as they are not criminals.
As President of the British Methodist Conference [2000 – 2001], I visited the UK’s largest Detention Centres [such as Rochester Prison, Campsfield, Haslar, Tinsley, Harmondsworth, Lindholme and Maghaberry Prison in Lisburn, Northern Ireland]. I shared what I observed in articles for the Methodist Recorder [12th April 2001 and 26th April 2001] and also in a Book entitled “Unlocking the Doors” [Penistone Publications 2001].
What I saw and heard strengthened my resolve to seek the welfare of Asylum Seekers.
The roots of Sanctuary are thousands of years old, and have their basis in such diverse cultures as ancient Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek. The Hebrew tradition enshrined the taking of sanctuary into the legal code of their new society when six Cities of Refuge were established according to the legislation set out in the Book of Numbers 35:6-34 [see also Joshua 20:1-9; Deuteronomy 4:41-43]. These Cities were able to give refuge to anyone, including a foreigner, who was accused of manslaughter, thus preventing the automatic use of revenge as a rough, ready and indiscriminately unfair route to justice, “until there is a trial before the congregation” [Numbers 35:12]. The sole purpose of the Cities of Refuge in the Hebrew tradition was the prevention of revenge, not the avoidance of law. The Rabbinic teaching is that roads leading to these Cities were to be kept in good repair, with clear finger posts, so that a refugee may be free to escape the hands of the avenger of blood and find safety.
The Hebrew tradition provided the basis for the incorporation of Sanctuary into the life of Western European society through its adoption by the Christian Church. Christian Sanctuaries, in early Church history, were for fugitive slaves. In Britain, the first Christian martyr, St Alban, was canonised because he was martyred for giving Sanctuary to a fleeing person. With the transition of the Church from a persecuted sect into an officially recognised and promoted religion, Sanctuary became legally recognised, although always subject to certain restrictions, and often caught in the tension between the competing claims of Church and State over the boundaries of their spheres of authority.
The earliest mention of Sanctuary in England was in a code of laws issued by King Ethelbert in the year 600AD. Under Norman rule, there were 2 kinds of Sanctuary:
– a general right to Sanctuary which belonged to every church;
– a particular right to Sanctuary which was granted to some cities by Royal Charter.
The general sanctuary offered protection to those who were guilty of capital felonies.
The sanctuaries of royal charter offered greater safety and were available in at least twenty two churches, including, Battle, Beverley, Colchester, Durham, Hexham, Norwich, Ripon, Southampton, Wells, Winchester, Westminster and York. They offered protection to debtors and criminals.
The right of sanctuary was to be confined to the designated church, the limits being extended to the precincts, and in some cases even to a larger area. For example at Beverley and Hexham, the boundaries of sanctuary covered the area within a radius of a mile from the church. The boundaries were marked by “sanctuary crosses”, some of which still remain. In Beverley, sanctuary was given for a month after which the person had to leave. They could return for another month if their life was still in danger, but had to leave after 30 days. If the person returned a third time, sanctuary was given permanently.
In Durham Cathedral those seeking protection held and rattled the Sanctuary Knocker to gain entrance. Upon claiming sanctuary people seeking sanctuary had to acknowledge their crime, and gained refuge for forty days, and had breathing space to assess their situation. They could decide to go through legal processes or leave the country. In the 15th and 16th centuries the monks of Durham kept a record of the occasions when sanctuary was claimed – about six a year. Murder was the most common crime noted. Debt and theft are also mentioned.
There is also a sanctuary knocker at St Gregory’s church, Norwich.
In some churches there was a stone seat within the church, called the “frithstool”, on which it is said a sanctuary seeker had to sit in order to claim protection. There is a sanctuary seat in Beverley Minster and Sprotborough Parish Church.
There was a strong tradition of sanctuary in the Middle Ages. In his book “From the Thames to the Tamar” the Rev A. G. L’Estrange writes that at Beaulieu Abbey near Southampton, in the year 1539, there were no less than “thirty two sanctuary men for debt, felony and murder”. Ho goes on to state that Beaulieu Abbey was held in reverence, and even the monarch would not violate it: “The greatest criminal or most obnoxious rebel who gained it’s gates and registered himself upon it’s books, was safe from pursuers”.
However, by the time of Reformation, the sanctity of Sanctuary was being discredited. Sanctuaries came to be seen as places of disrepute, and there were moves to curtail them.
The number of Sanctuaries were reduced to seven in the reign of Henry VIII, and in 1623, the general right to Sanctuary was abolished by statute law, although the basis of Sanctuary has always been moral and spiritual. White Friars, London was the last place of sanctuary used in England, but it was abolished by Act of Parliament in 1697.
The concept of Sanctuary re-emerged in the 20th Century, first in El Salvador, as a form of protection from the activities of ‘death squads’. From there it was taken up in the USA when churches sheltered Guatemalans and Salvadorians refused refuge.
In 1982, a Presbyterian Church in Arizona, unwilling to see people sent back to certain detention, became the first Church to offer Sanctuary. Scores more followed, and were joined by synagogues.
There have been sanctuaries for migrants in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden as well as in the UK. The best known Sanctuary in UK was that taken by Viraj Mendis in a church in Manchester 1988-89.
Five years ago I began to wonder, could Sheffield become a recognised ‘City of Sanctuary’ for Asylum seekers and refugees? I shared the idea with Craig Barnett and together we began to work on it.
Many people are now familiar with the idea of a ‘Fairtrade City’, in which a wide range of community groups and organisations make a commitment to using and selling fair-trade goods. In a similar way, a ‘City of Sanctuary’, we imagined, would be a place where significant numbers of schools, community groups, faith groups and cultural organisations, as well as local government, were committed to offering hospitality and support to refugees and “asylum-seekers” in their communities.
Many people who support refugees and “asylum-seekers” experience the difficulty of constantly reacting to ever-harsher legislation and media coverage. It can be difficult to feel a sense of achievement or progress towards a more hospitable and humane society. Working towards ‘City of Sanctuary’ status for Sheffield we felt would represent a positive common goal and aspiration for a wide variety of organisations, groups and individuals. Just as with a ‘Fairtrade City’, it could embody a set of explicit goals for the number of local organisations that signed up to the initiative, and a commitment to broaden support for the idea in order to gradually influence the culture of the city as a whole.
Sheffield has an excellent record of support for asylum-seekers and refugees, and a diverse and thriving multicultural population. This made it ideally placed to be the first city to adopt the goal of becoming a ‘City of Sanctuary’ for people in need of safety from persecution.
Other cities in the region and beyond are now following the direction with Sheffield leading the way. There are City of Sanctuary working groups in Bradford, Leicester, Nottingham, Coventry, Oxford, London, Bristol, Swansea, Huddersfield, Hull and Wakefield.
Following a meeting on 15th October 2005, to discuss Sanctuary, many Sheffield city organisations adopted the following resolution:
“Our organisation recognises the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees to the City of Sheffield, and is committed to offering hospitality to people who come here in need of safety from persecution. We support the goal of Sheffield becoming a recognised City of Sanctuary for asylum seekers and refugees.”
We called for support from the leader of all of Sheffield’s Faiths, political leaders, community organisations, educational institutions and all people committed to offering hospitality and support to asylum seekers and refugees in our City.
Over 100 organisations have signed up so far, including community organisations, worship centres, Students Unions of both our Universities, a number of businesses, our Faith Leaders from different Faiths, many Worship Centres, and, our City Council that represents different political persuasions. The latest organisation to sign up in support is Sheffield Homes, one of the largest property holders in the City.
On 18th June 2007 Sheffield became UK’s first City of Sanctuary.
The City of Sanctuary Committee, just 8 of us, is consulting with all who support us to develop goals for a City of Sanctuary. With the City Council we have produced a vision that states what a City of Sanctuary looks like and some criteria for becoming a City of Sanctuary.
City of Sanctuary builds on the history of sanctuary. In the contemporary expression of Cities of Refuge, and buildings of sanctuary, the City of Sanctuary moves the idea towards a vision where local communities and organisations work together to counter and challenge hostility, and create a culture of welcome, hospitality and safety for all residents. City of Sanctuary is very much a grassroots movement. It is not a political movement or campaign, and does not seek to evade or avoid the law but to make it publicly accountable.
City of Sanctuary offers a positive vision of a culture of welcome and hospitality for all those in need of safety.
Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal
Chair, City of Sanctuary
Methodist Recorder 26th April 2001
Bhogal, I. 2001 Unlocking the Doors. Penistone Publications, Penistone
Independent Commission on Asylum report, 28th March 2008
Barnett, C and Bhogal, I. 2009 Becoming a City of Sanctuary. Plug and Tap, Ripon
L’Estrange, A.G. From The Thames to the Tamar
A meeting place for the sharing of the spiritual journeys of its readers www.permissiontospeak.org.uk
Amos 9:7 and John 4:21
See also Isaiah 19:19-25 (J. Sacks, Dignity of Difference, p.204)
I came to India in 1982 and made contact with the Church of North India. The Rev. Pritam Santram was the General Secretary and The Rev. Ernest Talibuddin was treasurer. The Rev. Patrick Moti lal was an up and coming young minister serving in Bhogal. I was made to feel very welcome by CNI and by all my colleagues here.
I remember chatting with Pritam Santram about Church, Christianity and other faiths. I was thinking through some ideas about Christianity from a world-wide perspective.
Among many wise things Pritam Santram said to me were these words. He said: “The way God relates to Israel is symbolic of how God relates to all nations.” That was a shaft of great illumination for me. The thought has helped me enormously.
To read the full sermon given by Inderjit at Delhi Cathedral please click here.
I am honoured to give this Methodist Sacramental Fellowship Lecture. I am grateful to the MSF for the support you have given me over the years. I value MSF for the respect you give to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures and the centrality of the Holy Eucharist.
I have been invited to give this Lecture as a result of a conversation I have conducted with Norman Wallwork over a number of years on the Wesleyan, particularly Charles’, use of polysyllabic words such as “unfathomable”, “incomprehensibly”, and, my favourites, “undistinguishing” and “inextinguishable”. Norman discerned the makings of a Lecture. I discern a Weslyan Polysyllabic Holy Trinity: God who has an Undistinguishing Regard for all; Christ who is Incomprehensibly Made Man; and the Holy Spirit, the Inextinguishable Blaze.
The two words “for all” are central in Methodist thought, and were deliberately chosen in the title of my Inaugural Presidential Address: A Table For All.
In the words of Charles Wesley, God’s “Undistinguishing regard was cast on [all] Adam’s fallen race”, and, as he goes on to write, “for all thou hast in Christ prepared sufficient, sovereign, saving grace”[Hymns and Psalms 520].
The words Immense, Unfathomed and Unconfined, in relation to God and God’s Grace, say to me that God, and God’s Grace, knows no bounds.
What I offer in this paper are some reflections on my understanding of God, the Grace and Graciousness of God, and the Good News of God disclosed in Jesus Christ.Most of us here have met around a vision that we want to mark 2007 as an important mile-stone in the struggles against slavery, recognising that – while there were around 10million people in slavery worldwide in 1807, to our shame there will be over 20 million people in slavery worldwide in 2007.
With the support of all the organisations we represent, and others, the ‘Set All Free – Act to end Slavery’ project has been established, and a project Director and Officer are in place. We have an executive committee, and a wider co-ordinating group to guide and support the project.
Considerable work has already been undertaken, and we have an agenda.
We are here therefore to share together in this service of commitment, to launch the Set All Free project, and to Commission our Director and Officer, in the context of worship and prayer. Set All Free is a project of the church. It is a collaboration between churches, church related groups, societies and agencies, and others who are happy to work with a Christian ethos to ‘act to end slavery.’ We are a partnership of black and white Christians – utterly dedicated to opposing the disgrace of slavery in all its forms. We meet on this ground to affirm the Christian tradition of questioning and opposing injustice.
Our motivation is Jesus Christ and his vision of the kingdom of God in which all belong equally.
To read the full sermon text please click here.
“People will come from East and West, North and South, and will eat in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29 NRSV)
It’s a wonderful image for our contemporary world. We gather in the weekend during which the third anniversary of 9/11 has been marked. We gather at the end of the week which has seen the tragedy of Beslan School killings. And even as we pray Hurricane Henry is flattening parts of the Caribbean, there are floods in China and Japan experienced a strong earthquake. We are meeting at a time when millions of people, like those in Darfur are dying. These are all forms of terror today rooted in poverty, plurality and pollution.
It’s an important week-end for me for other reasons. It is 40 years precisely this weekend since I arrived in UK with my family from Nairobi Kenya. What brought me here was a catalogue of Colonial racism and terrorism that I can now trace back 400 years to the Slave Trade.
To read the full sermon click here.
The vigil is the initiative of Religious Leaders in Beeston, Leeds. It has been organised by the Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum.
The YHFF was established last year to:
• Advance the contribution of faith communities in the Yorkshire and Humber Region
• Encourage and educate faith communities to work together in matters of policy, strategy and action
• Challenge all forms of discrimination and injustice against persons or groups of people, particularly on the grounds of religious belief.
The vigil will bring together members of local worshipping communities- Christians, Muslims and Sikhs, for silent prayer. Prayer is common to all faiths. We will meet outside the Mosque in Stratford Street to express solidarity with Muslim neighbours as they gather for afternoon prayers.
The vigil will express solidarity and respect of people of Faiths for each others’ faith.
It is important for people of all faiths and beliefs to publicly show that we stand together, want to work together to build relations of mutual respect and trust, and not allow those who misrepresent our faiths, or pour scorn on them, or convey hatred- to divide or separate us.
The vigil is held in the context of a number of events that have occurred over the last 2-5 days:
• The Religious and Racial Hatred Bill coming before Parliament
• The BNP Leaders in Court in Leeds
• The publishing of outrageous cartoons in some Media.
All these events highlight particularly issues around the right to freedom of speech.
There are a number of competing rights and there is a duty upon us all to exercise our rights responsibly:
• All of us have the right to freedom of speech
• All have the right in a multi faith society to practice their faiths and to have the freedom to worship and pray
• All have the right to live without being routinely scapegoated for all ills- as Muslims are being just now
• All have the right to protection from danger.
We cannot give priority to just one right.
There are rights, but we all have responsibilities also to show respect for what is holy for each other and in each other.
It is important to do all we can to promote respectful, good, open debate, to challenge injustice and preconceived opinions, and to do this without vitriol and verbal or physical violence against each other.
We all have a duty to avoid misrepresenting each other. We can do this by learning, and being more informed, about different faiths and beliefs.
We need to work with each other to build a society in which we can all live and contribute to the welfare of all.
Words read at the Vigil and shared on interviews with Radio Leeds, Radio Aire, BBC News Online, Asian Network BBC, Yorkshire Post, Leeds Evening Telegraph, Calendar News ITV and BBC Look North [3,4 and 5 February 2006].