A Peace Vigil for Ukraine was held in Southampton’s Guildhall Square last Friday evening, 11th March, addressed by religious and civic community leaders including the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Alex Houghton; The Right Reverend Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton; Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry – Leader of Southampton City Council; Nikki Walters – Southampton City of Sanctuary; Dr Parvin Damani MBE – Muslim Council of Southampton; Chris Webb – a pastor at Above Bar Church and William Brook-Hart – City of Sanctuary and SWVG.
Watch videos of their messages here
I gave the following presentation during the vigil.
“The Bar Gate and the medieval walls of Southampton, so visible at West Quay, are a vivid reminder of our tumultuous past when our ancestors faced the threat of attack and invasion from foreign armies.
Imagine if tonight Southampton was once again facing attack from a much more powerful neighbour, bombing our city, their army besieging our city. Imagine we were running low on food and water, cut off from Portsmouth and Winchester. Where would you seek shelter? How would you protect your family, your children or parents? Where would you flee to? What valuables would you take that you can carry? What about your pets? As we well know, from our TV screens, this is happening tonight in Kiyev and other Ukrainian cities.
That is why we are here tonight to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. If we experience a little discomfort from the rain remember it is nothing compared with their situation.
Our historic walls, built to protect, also have gates and Southampton has a long history of welcoming refugees and people seeking asylum from all over the world. After the 1st World War and the Russian Revolution, what is now Southampton airport became the Atlantic Park transit sheltering thousands of Jews and other nationalities fleeing persecution. It was one of the biggest trans-migratory camps in the world. And just before the 2nd World War, Southampton hosted thousands of children from the Basque region fleeing the civil war in Spain.
But it’s not just history. Today we are pleased that several local charities actively involved in welcoming and supporting people seeking asylum are sponsoring this vigil. Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) with the support of City of Sanctuary Southampton, Southampton Action, CLEARProject, Southampton Stand Up To Racism and Romsey Amnesty Group.
We invite you to find out more about their work and how, together, we can welcome and support more people seeking asylum in Southampton today and maintain our rich tradition as a city of sanctuary.”