Wells Cathedral is committed to hosting events for the whole community, near and far, on topics that affect us all.
Modern Slavery autumn events
Wells Cathedral put on a series of events exploring and highlighting this important issue. Working with the Diocese of Bath and Wells and the Clewer Initiative, a number of leading organisations including Amnesty International, British Red Cross, Stop the Traffick, Unchosen and Unseen will be coming to Wells Cathedral this autumn for discussions and workshops.
The Right Revd Bishop Alastair Redfern, Lead Bishop on Modern Slavery for the Church of England, spoke at the events that included Modern Slavery KS4 Schools Event , public event “The National Picture” 18 October 2017 and on 15 November Wells Cathedral hosted a sixth form conference in the morning and public event in the afternoon.
A Topical Debate: Trade & Brexit
Led by Professor John Hudson, Department of Economics, University of Bath
As part of Fairtrade Fortnight Wells Cathedral hosted a Topical Debate on Tuesday 28 February 2017. Held in the Cathedral Nave the debate focussed on ‘Trade and the implications of Brexit’.
Following the speech ‘Brexit – the economic pros and cons for the UK’ by Professor John Hudson, a panel was on hand for a Q&A session. Chaired by Dr John Davies, Dean of Wells, the panel included Kate Willis, Fairtrade Foundation; Dr Julia Reid, MEP and Environment Spokesperson; Mary Milne, Traidcraft Campaigns Manager; Councillor John North, Deputy Mayor, Wells City and Mendip District councillor.
Migration and Refugee Day at Wells Cathedral
Wells Cathedral hosted a well-received Migration and Refugee Day on Monday 10 October inviting local schools and members of the public to hear keynote speaker, Fahim Asefi, share his traumatic experience of being an ordinary boy in Afghanistan to becoming an Afghan refugee in Somerset.
The day comprised of a sixth form conference in the morning that attracted 180 sixth formers from 5 different state and independent schools. Students listened to five speakers and then took part in workshops and a plenary session.
Recordings of these speeches can be found on our YouTube channel. David Maggs from the Diocese of Bath and Wells and Wells Cathedral have produced a hand out that lists the local contacts and charities that are tackling these issues. In the afternoon, the public event attracted approximately 150 people and comprised of speeches followed by a Question and Answer session chaired by Bishop Ruth Worsley.
‘a smile, a small act of kindness’ can make the difference
Fahim Asefi, Afghan Refugee and apprentice legal adviser (centre of photo)
Fahim Asefi spoke eloquently about his life as an ordinary boy growing up in Afghanistan. Then his world was turned upside down when his parents were killed due to their political beliefs. At the age of just 16 years old he was in grave danger as the people who killed his family were looking for him. In order to survive he had no choice but to try and flee his country in order to seek safety. After ‘the most horrible journey that is impossible to imagine’ he escaped from the back of a lorry and discovered he was in the UK.
Fahim moved and inspired the 16 year old sixth form students and public alike, as he spoke of his arrival in the UK ‘feeling like a two year old child who cannot speak the language, does not know the culture, the environment or anything’. He thanked the people who helped him to learn how to live here, learn to speak English, to go to school and contribute to the community. He expressed how important ‘a smile, a small act of kindness’ were to helping him start to rebuild his life after trauma. He is currently an apprentice legal adviser helping others in need, and plans to study at degree level.
(Photos l-r: Dr Jessica Hambly; Fahim Asefi and Bishop Ruth Worsley)
The other speakers at the event included Dr Jessica Hambly, Research Associate, University of Bristol Law School Migration Research Group. She described the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee and the legal process that people have to go through. An asylum-seeker is someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed. In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government. Research shows that approximately 20 per cent of asylum seekers gain refugee status. Most people are deported back to the country they fled from, kept in detention centres (often former prisons) or ‘go underground’ for fear of deportation.
Dr Orla Dunn, Consultant in Public Health, Somerset County Council spoke of her work resettling Syrian families in Somerset as part of the government resettlement scheme. She spoke of the amazing voluntary support that people in Taunton have offered. She also spoke of the various community initiatives across the county that are helping respond to the migrant crisis as well as assisting refugees and asylum seekers within the U.K.
Dan Doherty and Fiona Daborn from Christian Aid spoke about Christian Aids work in Greece and Serbia. They highlighted the ‘Change the Story Campaign’ that invites people to try and get some positive stories of welcome into the media.
Elinor Harris from British Red Cross reminded us to look beyond the label of a ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker’ – people who are forced to flee their homes are mothers, brothers, doctors, students, builders – in other words ‘human beings’ and should be treated with dignity and respect.
Duncan Verwey, from Richard Huish Academy wrote about the event: ‘The students and staff alike found the event really interesting, beautifully run and in a magnificent setting. We would definitely be eager to participate in future events. The programme was great, speakers were highly interesting and so valuable! Having the chance to hear firsthand an experience of an individual seeking asylum was priceless, tear-jerking and academically fascinating.’
Many questions to the panel expressed the need for people in the Bath and Wells to lobby the government to accept more refugees and respond more quickly to the humanitarian crisis.