On 20th June, 'Seeking Sanctuary' marked not only World Refugee Day, but also the 20th anniversary of the deaths of 58 young Chinese people found in a sealed container at Dover docks.
Gathered on Dover seafront before the plaques remembering those who have died trying to reach our shores, we were privileged to be joined by the Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover, by Kay Marsh from the Samphire Project, and by Col Jo Gunnell, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent, representing HM the Queen.
Bishop Rose reminded us that, 'Their hope was crushed, because the world turns its back on those who are most vulnerable. The world says it must only be me and mine'. She enjoined us to remember that, '... for those who are still trying to reach our shores, their lives matter ... until we live and believe that their lives matter, sadly we will see more of these memorials'.
Commenting after the event, Ben Bano from Seeking Sanctuary said, ' We were fortunate to be joined by Bishop Rose whose moving words inspired us all. She reminded us that "their story is our story" - that the motivation to improve our lives is common to us all'.
Read Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkins reflection here:
This is something that is important to all of us that regard ourselves as humans.
In the story of creation we are told God created the world and that he created humankind and at the end of it we are told that God said it was good. it was good. The humankind, the environment God created was good. in God's eyes.
Now, as we travel through life we understand that things happen in different parts of the world. There can be natural disasters. There can be economic disasters, and from that there's also human disasters in the form of war. and from that humankind makes the decision that they need to move to another place and we see that in our scriptures as well. We hear stories of the children of Israel. The movement of the people from one place to another - and they are moving because they want to make a better life for themselves and their families. We've all done that. The British left Britain and they went to America they went to the Caribbean, they went to Africa, New Zealand, Australia.
They didn't go there because they fancied a holiday. They went their because they wanted to improve their lives and the lives of their families. So people will always move in order for that to happen.
And today we are here remembering. We are remembering the young Chinese men and women, the Vietnamese who died most recently also trying to get to Europe.
Not because they had nothing better to do.
And also we should remember those who are constantly trying to reach our shores still. This is not just something that happened in the past. It is the present. And it is the present because the world that we live in is a world that is in turmoil. It is in economic turmoil. it also unfortunately in the turmoil of humankind visiting disaster through as on its own people. So people naturally want to flee from that. They want to make a better life And in the process of making a better life there are those who would act as traffickers and abuse them. There are those who would take the hard earned savings knowing full well that the vehicle whether it be the boat of the truck that they put them on is not safe. They risk their very lives courageously. Their families put together all they could afford to send them. And they were sent with a sense of hope. Those who we remember today. Their hope was crushed not because they didn't try hard enough . Their trust was abused. It was crushed because the world turns its back on those who are most vulnerable. The world says it must only be me and mine.
For those of you within hearing of this we must change. Their lives mattered. The lives of those who are still trying to reach our shores their lives after. And until we live and believe that their lives matter, sadly we will see more of these memorials and that's a sad endictment for us in the 21st century . So today we remember those who left their homeland with a sense of expectation and hope for the future which ended in their deaths. Someone once said. when we experience the pain of loss as their family's did and I'm sure their families on this anniversary do, we stand with them and we mourn with them and feel the pain of loss of a generation. Because that's what they were - the next generation. embarking on the new work as it were. When we feel the pain of loss the question is asked, how long will we feel it. My sisters and brothers let's not hurry it up. Let's stay with the mothers the fathers the sisters the children, the relations. Let us stay with them and let us mourn with them and let us feel the pain that they are feeling. Because if we continue to feel the pain then it will inspire us to do something about it. It is when we close out eyes and say right that's done now we don't need to think about it. That is why it continues to happen. What can we do we ask ourselves.
I want to suggest that every single one of us we can do something. First of all we can say to our politicians local and national: Please stop the continual words that encourage the world to turn their back on those who are vulnerable. Say to them we do not want you to make them outcasts. You have the power as our political leaders to actually have the kind of exchange with governments around the world about the kind of work we need to live in and we want to live it. We can begin that. Lets not pander to those that say Britain only belongs to this group. It does not. This is God's Britain This is God's world. It belongs to all of us. And we must find a way to create space and make room.
And first of all let me just say that if things were great in the countries where people are coming from they wouldn't want to leave. To come to a freezing cold place in the first instance. So we need to do our best with our government to say do what you can to ensure that people are safe in their countries.
Don't sell weapons to places that you know are going to turn those weapons on their own people.
Don't take all the natural resources from those countries and put nothing back in to those place so that those families can live and look after themselves. So let us feel the pain let us stay with this who lost their lives - the 58 - let us remember them . Those who died recently in Essex .
Let us remember them. Those who are still trying to come to our shores. Let us remember them. Their lives matter. And that's what and why I am here and why we are here. Their lives mattered. And so I see words from Pope Francis 'Every migrant has a name. Every migrant has a face. And every migrant has a story.'
What is important of us to know is actually that their story is our story. Their story is our story and and our story is their story because part of their story will be I came and you did not receive me. I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was naked you did not clothes me. I was in prison and you did not visit me. You did not care. Their story is our story. Let us make it our story in the way we live. In the way we vote. In the way we treat human kind in this world.
So how long will the pain last, The pain must last. the scars will be there and in the sense these two plaques remind us of the scars and long may they be there to remind us of the scars of the loss of these young people who left in hope and had their hopes crushed. It is my prayer and my hope that we will be the change that we want to see in our community of Dover in Britain and in the world or which we are a part.. we are world citizens not just citizens of Dover . . Lets be that change we want to see, Let speak to our families and friends that they too commit themselves to be the change.
Watch a video of Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkins giving her reflection here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNHuS1czfsk&feature=youtu.be
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