Many people in Southampton joined together at the Peace Vigil for Ukraine in Guildhall Square last Friday evening, 11th March, which was addressed by religious and civic community leaders.
The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Alex Houghton welcomed people and said “it’s truly humbling to see how the people of Southampton, including those with Polish, Ukrainian and Russian connections, have come together to help the people of Ukraine.”
The Right Revd Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton, began the vigil with a prayer for peace.
Leader of Southampton City Council, Daniel Fitzhenry said that “over the coming weeks we will be preparing for the refugees that will come to our city. As a City of Sanctuary, we will do everything in our hearts and minds to support those that need our help. Our city will shine at its brightest in this darkest of moments.”
Dr Parvin Damani MBE, representing the Muslim Council of Southampton said “we all have some power within us and we must show solidarity and unity. Let us show justice and fairness to any people in need of safety and who have humanitarian needs.”
Revd Dr Stephen Sizer recalled the history of Southampton in welcoming many people in need of sanctuary, including the 3,880 Basque children who came in 1937 following the destruction of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.
Nikki Walters of City of Sanctuary noted that far from helping refugees, the Nationalities and Borders Bill will penalise them. She said “no one chooses to be a refugee, they are forced from their homes by conflict and persecution. People have a right to security. Southampton has been a place of sanctuary for hundreds of years, a port in a storm for those seeking safety. I know that people in Southampton will do everything they can to welcome them.”
Chris Webb, a pastor at Above Bar Church, which has a long history of ministry in Ukraine read from the scriptures and offered a prayer for the people of Ukraine.
The event was organised by Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) with the support of City of Sanctuary Southampton, Southampton Action, CLEARProject, Southampton Stand Up To Racism and Romsey Amnesty Group.
City of Sanctuary Southampton: Southampton has a long history of welcoming refugees who have contributed and shaped our society. In July 2017 all parties on Southampton City Council voted to support the initiative to make Southampton into a recognised ‘City of Sanctuary’. City of Sanctuary Southampton is made up of professionals and volunteers who work together to make Southampton a warm and welcoming place for refugees and asylum seekers. It is a member of the nationwide City of Sanctuary movement.
SWVG is a volunteer-led local charity (200 members) which provides friendship and practical support to people who need asylum in Southampton. We work together with other refugee support organisations including British Red Cross and CLEARProject in St Marys.