On Saturday 25th July the Liberal Jewish Synagogue played host to the New Citizens Organising Team as they launched their plan to resettle 1500 Syrian refugees in the UK.
A group of 55 faith and youth leaders, including Bishop Peter Selby, Senior Rabbi Alexandra Wright of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Danny Rich, Canon Steven Saxby of Saint Barnabas in Walthamstow and Imam Suliman Gani from the Croydon Mosque and Islamic Centre, came together to plan an 18 month strategy leading up to the 2015 national election. The strategy involves large-scale migrant voter registration, interfaith teams to support the resettlement of refugees in local areas, and increasing the number of refugees settled in the UK from 750 to 1500 per year. Britain, the sixth richest country in the world, has resettled only 48 Syrians in 2014 – not enough people to fill a double decker bus. Jordan, the world’s 89th richest country, has taken 1.2 million!
This is not the first time Citizens UK and faith leaders have joined forces to change the experiences of migrants in this country. The 2010 Citizens UK ‘Sanctuary Pledge’ to end child detention was supported by the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches, The Muslim Council of Britain, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbi.
The campaign culminated at a Citizens UK assembly of 2,500 people just prior to the 2010 General Election, where David Cameron, Nick Clegg and then Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to end child detention. Since then 4,000 children have escaped the trauma of detention. In January 2014 the Government announced an amendment to the Immigration Bill to prohibit in law the detention of children for immigration purposes. This enshrines in law the progress that the government has made since 2010 in ending the practice of locking up over a thousand innocent children with their families in prison-like conditions.
The recent planning and strategy meeting was interspersed with a Muslim Iftar meal – hosted in the synagogue – and the Jewish celebration of Havdalah, marking the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the working week.
Afterwards, Imam Suliman Gani stated:
“I visited the Liberal Jewish Synagogue because our faiths must act together for the common good. Our communities must welcome refugees, particularly those who have been driven from their homes.”
Rabbi Alexandra Wright said:
“The Liberal Jewish Synagogue is honoured to have hosted the Citizens UK ‘Sanctuary Pledge’ planning day. It was uplifting to see so many different communities engaged in vital action for change and to be part of the breaking of the fast for the Muslim community."
Rabbi Danny Rich said:
“I pledge that Liberal Judaism’s synagogues will build temporary dwellings during the Jewish festival of ‘Succot’ and invite our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters in to join us, as part of our work to ask our local councils to resettle a refugee family in our neighbourhoods.”