Nationality and Borders Bill: Meeting with Royston Smith MP

Several Trustees of Southampton & Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) met with Royston Smith MP today to discuss the shortcomings of the Nationality and Borders Bill now in its final stages before Parliament.

I quoted part of an open letter to the Prime Minister signed by 1000 faith leaders criticising the bill.

“Criminalizing and punishing vulnerable asylum seekers who have little choice but to arrive in the UK through ‘irregular routes’, when the majority are subsequently able to prove that they have a legitimate basis for their asylum claim, is a disgraceful and dishonourable policy, and should be abandoned.”

I also cited three ways the faith leader’s letter suggested the Bill might be improved.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill provides a wonderful opportunity for the Government to stand by its traditional values of family life, community service and respect for human dignity (values that we share) and,
1. Expand family reunion rules to ensure safe passage of those children and vulnerable adults trying to reach family members in the UK,
2. Open new safe routes for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe and,
3. Create and implement ambitious new resettlement schemes – always setting compassionate and ambitious targets.”

Read more here:

Southampton Peace Vigil for Ukraine

A Peace Vigil for Ukraine was held in Southampton’s Guildhall Square last Friday evening, 11th March, addressed by religious and civic community leaders including the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Alex Houghton;  The Right Reverend Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton; Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry – Leader of Southampton City Council; Nikki Walters – Southampton City of Sanctuary; Dr Parvin Damani MBE – Muslim Council of Southampton; Chris Webb – a pastor at Above Bar Church and William Brook-Hart – City of Sanctuary and SWVG.

Watch videos of their messages here

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Southampton Peace Vigil for Ukraine Videos

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.”

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Winchester Peace Vigil for Ukraine

More than 350 people from across Winchester came to Abbey Gardens in Winchester on Tuesday 1st March to show solidarity and support at a vigil for Ukraine.

William Brook-Hart from the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) said what had been witnessed on the TV was horrendous: “I think we’re all horrified by the events unfolding in Ukraine. We’re all very shocked. It feels quite close to home. The cities being bombarded look very much like our cities… and we can empathise very much with what people are going through and feel great solidarity with them really.”

Canon Tess Kuin Lawton of Winchester Cathedral led with a prayer for peace, followed by a one minute silence in respect for the people of Ukraine.

We are #TogetherWithRefugees and with Winchester City of Sanctuary. We call for fair and humane treatment of people who need sanctuary, and safe routes for refugees.

Sources: Winchester Today and BBC News

The Lord’s Prayer in Time of War

Our Father, who art in heaven,
slow to anger, and of great mercy, lover of all peoples of the earth,

Hallowed be thy Name.
Remind us that “all the nations are as nothing before thee,”
their governments but a shadow of passing age;

Thy kingdom come on earth.
Grant to thy children throughout the world,
and especially to the leaders of the nations,
the gift of prayerful thought and thoughtful prayer;
that following the example of our Lord,
we may discern what is right, and do it;

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Help us to protect and to provide for all who are hungry and homeless,
especially those who are deprived of food and shelter,
family and friends, by the tragedy of war;

Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us for neglecting to “seek peace and pursue it,”
and finding ourselves in each new crisis,
more ready to make war than to make peace.
“We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”;

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Let us not seek revenge, but reconciliation;
Let us not delight in victory, but in justice;
Let us not give ourselves up to pride, but to prayer;

Lead us not into temptation.
Be present to all thy children ravaged by war:
Be present to those who are killing and to those who are being killed;
Be present to the loved ones of those who are killing
and to the loved ones of those who are being killed;

Deliver us from evil.
Subdue our selfish desires to possess and to dominate,
and forbid us arrogance in victory;

For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

~ written by Wendy Lyons

Surfers Not Street Children

We are delighted to share the new Surfers not Street Children video.

Tom Hewitt writes, I am so excited to share with you our exclusive new film with world surfing legend Jordy Smith and O’Neill. Both Jordy and O’Neill have been supporting us for a number of years and we are so grateful to them for raising awareness of our vital work and directly helping us. This is the first in a series of fundraising and awareness activities together this year and I am delighted to share it with you. Enjoy!”

Tom Hewitt MBE
Founder and Global CEO

Read more about Surfers not Street Children

In this brief interview, recorded in July last year, Tom Hewitt gives an update on the work of Surfers Not Street Children in the light of the recent civil unrest in South Africa.

Rifat Kassis Joins Peacemaker’s Board of Reference

We are delighted that Rifat Odeh Kassis has agreed to join our international Board of Reference.

Rifat is the General Coordinator of Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice, being one of its founding members. He co-authored the Kairos Palestine documents ‘A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering’, ‘Kairos for Palestine’ and ‘Cry for Hope’: A Call for Decisive Action.

Rifat Kassis was born in Beit Sahour and for more than twenty five years has been a leading figure and expert in the Palestinian, regional and international child rights community. 

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Southampton: City of Sanctuary

As a city of sanctuary, Southampton has a long history of welcoming people from around the world, and in recent months we’ve worked closely with the Home Office and other local organisations to help resettle a small number of refugee families.

The volunteers who make up the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group provide vital support services for refugees and asylum seekers, providing one-on-one English language teaching, advising on legal matters, and organising activities like parties, visits and walks to help broaden residents’ experience of British life.

Cllr Spiros Vassiliou, Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture & Heritage, met with the team this week to thank them for their efforts and speak with some of those being supported.

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