Norwich multi-faith march calls for refugee action
A multi-faith Palm Sunday march across Norwich city centre this afternoon (March 20) has repeated calls on Norfolk County Council to fulfil its pledge to welcome 50 Syrian refugee families to the city as soon as possible. Keith Morris reports.
The 120-strong march, organised by Sanctuary Norfolk and the Mothers’ Union (Norwich Diocese), began at St John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral. Cathedral Dean, Fr David Paul, said: “Today is Palm Sunday when we remember the Lord’s welcome into Jerusalem. For people of all faiths, we believe God’s welcomes us all into his life and we want to extend that to those who are in great need. For Syrian refugees that need is more desperate than ever.
“We bear witness to the welcome God wants us to extend to those who have been made homeless, who have fled wars and persecutions. We will be joining together in prayer for the situation and also to ask those in authority to be open and generous and to welcome those who want to come to Norwich to be part of our family here."
Clergy and Christians from several Norwich churches joined others in the march to St Peter Mancroft church where various speakers addressed the crowd.
Marguerite Phillips, President of the Mothers’ Union, Norwich Diocese, said: “We need a response from Norfolk County Council on when something might happen. We are praying constantly for refugees wherever they are and wherever they come from. There is a lot of willing support in Norfolk and our members are prepared to do whatever is necessary but a good deal of what is needed already seems to be in place.”
“We believe that this support for refugees is a basic humanitarian response and as Mothers Union members we see it as our obligation to help those in desperate need. Let’s hope the County Council are moved by the response today.”
Anas Injarie, a Syrian doctor, working as an eye specialist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said that he was director of a prosthetic limbs project in a small part of Syria which, over the last three years, had helped produce prosthetic limbs for 3,000 people, most of them women and children.
“What is happening in Syria is beyond imagination,” he said. “Right now we have people on our doorstep, calling on our humanity. What are we if we do not help them and open our doors to the women and children who are suffering. What are we in Norwich if we do not allow just 50 – are we not ashamed to even say that number. This is the moment when our true humanity should prevail – all we need is love.”
Marie-Lyse Numuhoza, a Rwandan genocide survivor and refugee from 22 years ago, and now a trustee of Diocese of Norwich Mothers’ Union, told her own personal story of escaping gunmen. Marie-Lyse, said: “I heartily appreciate the welcome, the friendship and the love that I was given by the British people. Peace and human rights is what the people of the world need. We need to all live together in harmony and I am asking you all here today to call upon the local authority not to just take 50 refugees but to take as many as you can take, because as refugees, we come with love, we come with friendship and we come with knowledge. What we need from you is healing and safety.”
Amanda Hopkinson of the Justice and Peace Group told the crowd that talks with Norfolk County Council had been going on for well over a year with little progress. "Council leader George Nobbs has badly misjudged the mood of the county while in Essex they have agreed to take in 500 refugees by Christmas and Suffolk they are taking in 200,” she said
Great Yarmouth Muslim, Nasreen Ayub Khan, also spoke before the march continued to the nearby St Stephen’s Church, where all present joined together in praying for the situation.
Pictured above are marchers in front of Norwich Catholic Cathedal and the Forum and , below, a full picture gallery of the event.