On the 7th of September, we were honoured to be joined by over 100 people to launch our three year strategy. Hosted in the Great Hall by the University of Bristol, the space was a grand setting for bringing people together to discuss how we can build a culture of welcome in the city. Attendees heard from an array of speakers, who spoke about how they had embedded welcome within their work, whilst others spoke of how they themselves had been welcomed by their universities and workplaces.
The event was also a stark reminder of the challenges that are put in people’s way to building their lives here by hostile policies. Challenges such as study bans on students on the Sanctuary Scholarships, or the policy that means that the majority of people in the asylum system cannot work. Obstacles put in place that are of no benefit to our society, but that in fact hinder people truly being able to build their lives in the UK.
For years now, we have been working with local schools and colleges to award them as Schools and Colleges of Sanctuary, celebrating their efforts to be places of welcome. This has since been extended, and we now have a Church of Sanctuary and a University of Sanctuary. Part of this event was to look at growing what has already been achieved; as we move forward, we want to recognise other institutions for what they do to build welcome and inclusion within their work. The importance of this, the importance of building sanctuary, is demonstrated in this quote from one of the University of Bristol’s Sanctuary Scholars, Arooba: “Sanctuary not only means four walls and a roof…it means where I can be myself. I can show everyone what my passions are, what encourages me and what motivates me to move forward.” A place of sanctuary gives us all the freedom to flourish and grow our lives.
At the end, people were invited to give their thoughts on how Bristol can grow as a City of Sanctuary. It was so inspiring to hear how much is being done already in our city and gives us great hope for the future. Thank you to all who attended.