Citizens and Refugees

Published by Giles Goddard on Thu, 22 Oct 2015 07:42
Vicar's Blog

On 19th October the Prime Minister announced that the UK will take in 1000 Syrian refugees before Christmas. This is a direct result of two recent political actions - first, the letter signed by 84 Bishops and second, a vigil of 1000 members of Citizens UK outside Parliament on Tuesday 13th October. I was at the vigil; we heard from some recent refugees who had experienced terrible things in their attempts to reach safety, and from the Bishop of Durham who spoke very powerfully, and the choir of St Gabriel's school in Camberwell sang, and we all held up candles.

Mr Cameron's announcement doesn't go far enough, but is clear evidence that political actions work. I spent last week on a 5-day training with Citizens UK. It's a network of local non-profit and faith bodies which support the idea of community organising, working together for the common good. Its aim is to train and support local people so that they can help change society for the better, and it has some notable successes. For example, the idea of the Living Wage emerged from a group of cleaners in East London who were unable to bring up and support their families on the minimum wage - they had to have two jobs which meant they had no time with their children. They suggested that a higher rate would enable them to live well. The idea was picked up and run with, and now is nationally recognised.

St John's is proud to be a Living Wage employer, and we are also supporting the concept of turning the South Bank into a Living Wage zone. Many of us were part of a good action last year when we walked along the South Bank and presented letters to the Marriott Hotel (some of us dressed up as chambermaids or porters) and sang outside the South Bank Centre, and awarded ITV a certificate for becoming a Living Wage employer.... it works! I recently had a meeting with the South Bank Centre which is making huge strides towards being accredited too.

Lambeth Citizens are organising an action with one of the big employers on the South Bank, for next Saturday 31st October, starting at St John's at 1.30. I won't say much about it now, except that it'll be fun and productive! If you'd like to be part of it, can you let me know?

Waterloo is an area with a huge number of community organisations already, but it does seem to me that Citizens brings something different to the party ... it's based on relationships and understanding people's anxieties and concerns, and I think it works! Do have a look at the website, and if you're interested, see Nina or me ...

Image credits: