Tuesday, 30 December 2014

City of Sanctuary - the Birmingham Declaration

One of the central concerns of Quakers is to look for that of God in everyone. This is, I think, at the heart of some of our testimonies, including those for peace and equality. Quakers naturally differ in their understanding of God but they recognize that there is something they might term "the divine" or "the inner light" in all human beings. This doesn't mean that all human beings act well, since obviously they don't, but that there is something in human beings that we can, at  the very least, try to nurture and address.

It is not surprising that Quakers have, for a long time, been concerned to help asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Quakerism has its roots in Christianity, a religion which has numerous stories of refugees and migration (as do very many religions). The flight of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus is a well-known example. Similarly the disciples of Jesus became migrants. Quakers are now praised for the assistance they gave to refugees in the 1930s but this was not always a popular course of action.

Current hatred and fear of migrants is disturbing. I don't think the majority of the population feel hate and fear towards the individuals they encounter but it's easy to fear the unknown - and the media frequently treat vulnerable migrants as a mass who lack individual human characteristics. 

The City of Sanctuary movement calls for hospitality towards asylum seekers, refugees and  migrants. Recently it has asked groups to put their names to the "Birmingham Declaration." Beeston Quakers are very happy to sign this Declaration. The text can be found below. If you are a member of a group which would like to sign this declaration, it's easy to do so using this link.

City of Sanctuary - Birmingham Declaration

Britain has a long tradition of offering protection to those fleeing persecution, many of whom have gone on to make a considerable contribution to our society. It also has a reputation for fairness and justice that is the envy of many other nations.

We believe that the great majority of British people are sympathetic towards those who come here seeking help and protection.

We have come together in Birmingham on 15th November 2014 in recognition that the position of refugees and migrants is aggravated in Europe and in Britain in an unprecedented way. We can no longer just watch in silence as millions flee Syria only to be warehoused in refugee camps and thousands drown in desperate attempts to reach the Western world across the sea. This is a matter of life and death.

We commit ourselves to work together to ensure that our great country continues to be a safe place for those fleeing persecution and a welcoming place for all people who come here to study, work or join family and who will work alongside us to build a just and fair society.

We commit ourselves today to a core set of principles and asks that will strengthen our collective efforts to protect the rights of strangers amongst us. Through these commitments we seek accountability and justice. We are asking our Parliament and our Government to take necessary steps to deliver that change.

These commitments tackle the causes and consequences of the very vulnerable position refugees and migrants find themselves in. They are within the scope of the international protection framework that Britain has been signatory to for decades.

Recognising that we all have a role to play, we are asking our Government to do all they can to ensure that:

1. All asylum seekers, refugees and migrants should be treated with dignity and respect.
We ask that the debate on immigration is conducted with care for the dignity of people who are vulnerable, who do not have a voice in the public domain and who have to suffer the consequences of inaccurate and inflammatory language. We appeal to all politicians and to the media to conduct the pre-election debate responsibly, sticking to the facts and bearing these principles in mind.

2. A fair and effective process to decide whether people need protection should be in place.
We ask for a high standard of decision making on refugee protection cases. After years of very public failure, we demand a system that is fair and efficient and ensures protection for those who need it. People should have access to good quality legal advice and representation during the process, publicly funded when they are unable to pay. Not everyone is entitled to refugee status in Britain, but they are entitled to a fair process to determine if they are in need of protection.

3. No one should be locked up indefinitely.
We seek an end to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and migrants. No one should be deprived of their liberty with no judicial oversight. Indefinite detention is unacceptable, costly and ineffective. We ask for a reasonable time limit to be introduced and other safeguards put in place to ensure the lawfulness and fairness within the system.

4. No one should be left sick or destitute in our society.
It cannot be right that people are left destitute in modern Britain, banned from working but denied support. Until they are granted protection and can work, asylum seekers should receive sufficient support to meet their essential living needs while in the UK. We are asking that those whose cases have taken more than six months to resolve, or who have been refused but are unable to return home, should receive permission to work. All of them should be allowed free access to NHS services

5. We should welcome the stranger and help them to integrate.
People should integrate, and we should help them to do so. We are asking for support for asylum seekers to be welcomed and befriended on arrival. To help them integrate and participate in the local community they should be able to learn English, with free tuition provided where needed.
We make a commitment to take action on these principles and asks together and translate them into collaborative actions in our organisations and communities locally and nationally in the run up to the next general elections and beyond.

We commit ourselves to work strategically together. We will come back next year to check our progress against these principles and asks and make plans for what needs to be done in the future, together. Below are the first of what we believe will be hundreds of organisations signing this declaration.
(Flight into Egypt by Millais)

Reviving the Blog

posted by Kathy

As the blogger for Beeston Quakers, I've been more than a little slow in posting. Family matters and work have occupied me. I shall do my best to blog from time to time and, if I can, to recruit a further blogger or two.

Meanwhile it's good to report that the Meeting is happily settled in the Chilwell Memorial Hall and that attendance, after a dip, has  begun to grow again. This doesn't make us a large Meeting but it's been good to welcome new members and attenders who bring insights and enlarge our ways of seeing and understanding. 

We continue to welcome visitors - and invite them to join us for hot drinks (tea, coffee, herbal tea) and biscuits after Meeting for Worship. If you would like to join us and see what a Quaker Meeting is like, do come along. There is no cost or obligation to coming along and you will be very welcome.

Friday, 3 August 2012

The August break

The Memorial Hall is becoming a familiar place for Beeston Quakers.  We have seen new visitors in the past few months and were particularly pleased to welcome a baby last Sunday.   We have grown accustomed to the hall and the kitchen and adjacent rooms. 

However we remain a small Meeting and depend of a core of a few members and attenders.  We have therefore decided that we shall not hold Meeting for Worship in Beeston during August 2012.

There are Quaker Meetings in Nottingham, Derby and Loughborough which should welcome visitors (though it may be necessary to find out about facilities and Meeting for children in advance).  

Meeting in Beeston in the Chilwell Memorial Hall resumes at 10.30 on Sunday, 2nd September and will welcome visitors.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Next Meeting for Worship is on 8th January, 2012

We have consulted everyone at Meeting and on our e-mail list and discovered that almost everyone is away or busy on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Our next Meeting for Worship will therefore be at 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, 8th January 2012.

We are now feeling very settled in the Chilwell Memorial Hall and enjoy our Meetings there.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Beeston Quakers have moved

posted by Kathy

Beeston Quakers will be meeting in Chilwell Memorial Hall for the next month - and possibly for a long time to come. The hall seems to meet all our needs so we're trying it out, starting on Sunday 23rd October at 10.30 a.m. As always, visitors are welcome. Meeting for Worship lasts an hour and is mostly (sometimes entirely) silent. It is followed by notices after which we usually share hot drinks, biscuits and friendly conversation.

The memorial hall is at 129, High Road, Chilwell (near the turnings off to Cator Lane and Meadow Lane). You can find a map HERE.

Some people may find it strange that Quakers meet in a hall commemorating soldiers who died in the First World War but I think it right to remember all those who died in war. John Woolman, the 18th-century Quaker who refused to pay taxes for war, offers a more pertinent challenge. In his essay "A Plea for the Poor" he calls on Quakers to look at their own possessions and "try whether the seeds of war have any nourishment in them."

I think Beeston Quakers will also feel content that the original principles laid down by the trustees of the memorial hall included these:

That the Institute shall be used as a club or place of assembly for the inhabitants of Chilwell and the neighbourhood and that in determining what persons or class of persons shall be entitled to use the Institute no regard shall be had to or distinction made on grounds of religious discrimination, political opinions or sex.”

I reckon that chimes well with Quakers' testimony to equality.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Quaker Meetings in Beeston Fire Station until 16th October

We have booked into Beeston Fire Station until and including Sunday, 16th October. Please see the post below for details of location and map. Ideas for a suitable long-term home for our Sunday morning Meeting for Worship are still welcome.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Wandering Friends

We've been very happy meeting in the Middle Street Resource Centre for nearly twenty years. However new arrangements by the council mean that we are currently homeless, at rather short notice.

On Sunday 11th September we shall hold Meeting for Worship at 10.30 at the new Fire Station in Hassocks Lane, NG9 2GQ. Hassocks Lane is a turning off Queens Road East (the A6005) quite close to Highfields (the University Park).

View Larger Map

If you click on the map you should be able to zoom in and find the street.

All attending will be very welcome.

In the meantime, we need suggestions for the long-term.

Our primary requirements are: a comfortable, fairly quiet room where 15-20 people can meet, ideally sitting in a circle or similar arrangement with books on the centre table. It needs to be available between 10 and 12.30 on Sunday mornings every week.

We would very much like to be able to make and offer hot and cold drinks for attenders after meeting so access to a kettle would help.

Sometimes people bring children to Meeting and it would help to have a small, comfortable room for children to engage in activities with adult care/supervision. The age of the children could vary but it would be unusual for more than four to attend in a single week.

It's important that the venue has access for people with disabilities.

Ideally we would like to be able to leave a large box at the venue between Meetings. This contains mugs, equipment for hot drinks, a tin a biscuits, a first aid kit and a few books and leaflets.

We would like to be able to display a sign while meeting (perhaps in a window) so that people can see where we are. It would be good (but not essential) if we could have a poster up at other times.

If you know of any venue in the Beeston/Chilwell area that might suit us, please post a comment or email beestonquakers@yahoo.co.uk It would help to know how much any venue is likely to charge.

Meanwhile, for updates on our search for somewhere to meet, and details of arrangements on a weekly basis, please watch this blog.