Giving Sanctuary is a Human, Legal and Spiritual Obligation – Sanctuary Sunday in Dublin
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, marked Sanctuary Sunday at Choral Evensong yesterday (June 23). Sanctuary Sunday brings World Refugee Week to a close each year and encourages the development of cultures of welcome, hospitality and safety in churches.
The sermon was preached by the Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal OBE, founder of the City of Sanctuary Movement, and former leader of the Corrymeela Community. Dr Bhogal facilitated the establishment of Dublin City Interfaith Forum in 2012 which continues to flourish today in celebrating and honouring diversity, welcoming people of all cultures and ensuring there is intercultural wellbeing in Dublin city.
He said he was honoured that Dublin had embraced the City of Sanctuary movement and that Christ Church and St Patrick’s were Cathedrals of Sanctuary while DCU was a University of Sanctuary.
Religious faith could be summarised by the New Testament reading [Luke 10: 25–37] – love God and love your neighbour, he said, adding that the instruction to love the stranger was repeated almost 40 times in the Bible.
“There is no other ethical requirement so forcibly put in Scripture… Perhaps this is because it is difficult to love a stranger. A neighbour is someone who looks a bit like us. To love the stranger as yourself is harder as a stranger is different from us,” he explained.
The concept of City of Sanctuary was not a new one, he explained. It can be seen in the Bible in cities of refugee created for the Children of Israel and every monastery in ancient Ireland, including the round tower in Glendalough, had a safe space where people could find refuge. Many cathedrals in the past were places of sanctuary.
The City of Sanctuary movement seeks to ensure that children, older people, those who suffer indignity, or people who are in danger can find a safe space where they will be welcomed.
June 22 marked the anniversary of the arrival of the ship, the Empire Windrush, Dr Bhogal stated. Today 64 million people have lost the protection of their countries and are seeking sanctuary. Every two seconds a person is forced to flee their home, he said, that is 44,000 people each day.
He recalled a recent visit to Italy where he saw one of the boats which had carried people across the Mediterranean. From it he took a piece of wood which he made into a cross and a piece of rope which he wears as a stole.
Brexit had come to symbolise a focus across Britain and Ireland on freedom of movement and the preacher said it was an important discussion to have. City of Sanctuary offered a contribution to that discussion, he stated.
“There is a human, legal and spiritual obligation on us all to give sanctuary to others. This is important in this time of hostility to others who seek sanctuary. We can all be sanctuary to each other. Sanctuary Sunday is a small reminder to continue this work,” he concluded.
During the service readings were given by Ellie Kisyombe of Our Table and Shepherd Machaya, a DCU University of Sanctuary participant while Damien Jackson of the Irish Council of Churches and Irish Interchurch Meeting led the prayers.