Walk of Witness to the Conservative Party Conference to call for action to assist refugees

A group of over 130  participated in a ‘walk of witness’ with a Lampedusa cross on Sunday 2 October, outside the Conservative Party Conference to show support for action to assist refugees.

The walk of witness sets out from St. Chad's.

Parishioners walk from St. Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, to the Conservative Party Conference to call for action to assist refugees.

Following Sunday morning Mass at St. Chad’s Cathedral, the a group of over 130 people walked along Birmingham’s historic canals, reading liturgies and reflecting on the refugee crisis, as they headed towards the Conservative Party Conference.

Learn more about CAFOD and the Lampedusa cross.

They were led by Archbishop of Birmingham, The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, alongside CAFOD Head of Campaigns, Dan Hale who in conjunction with Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), local charities Brushstrokes and Father Hudson’s care organised the event.

The Archbishop carried a ‘Lampedusa cross’ made from the driftwood of refugee boats which has become a symbol of solidarity during the refugee crisis. Every Catholic cathedral in England in England and Wales has received one of the crosses – carved by Italian carpenter Francesco Tuccio on the island where thousands of people seeking sanctuary have landed.

A parishioner listens to a reading outside St. Chad's.

Parishioners carried signs that read ‘Welcome the Stranger’ and carried a quote from our Holy Father.

There was a diverse range of parishioners taking part in the ‘walk of witness.’ Retired couple, Annette and Alan Bloor, both 74, travelled from Great Hayward, Staffs, in order to participate because they felt very strongly about the treatment of children in the crisis. “We think it is just awful how children are suffering through this crisis and as a country we need to act,” said Alan.

Mr and Mrs Bloor from Staffordshire on the walk of witness.

Annette and Alan Bloor came to express their solidarity with refugees and to call on the government to act to protect vulnerable children caught up in the refugee crisis.

Emily Tierney, a lay chaplain from Birmingham had recently returned from a trip to the Calais refugee camp, where she witnessed some very distressing scenes. “I visited the camp several times to deliver aid, but the situation there has deteriorated. There is unrest and uncertainty and the police are using tear gas on protestors in the camp.” Despite this, Emily stressed that people should “never give up on the dream of a new life” as she stressed that we must look to HH Pope Francis as our best example.

Learn more about CAFOD’s refugee crisis appeal.

Emily Tierney has visited the Calais refugee camp several times with diocesan volunteers.

Emily Tierney talks to the group about her experiences with in the Calais refugee camp.

Paulette Stephenson from Hall Green brought her children, niece and friend to the event. She stated that: “It is important for kids to understand what is going on in the wider world.” Her daughter, Beth said: “I came to show people that the refugees are just normal people like us.”

Fr Pimlott Stephen

Father Pimlott Stephen said: “We have a moral duty to care, regardless of how challenging the issue is.”

Michael Bassamr, who fled Eritrea also came along with his children and their cousins. He said: “We’re very happy to get involved. Lots of people are dying and I’ve known many people who have died in the Sahara trying to flee Eritrea.” Michael spoke about the requirement for Eritrean men to participate in indefinite military service in the country, “may people want to leave so they can just live their own lives.”

Mr Bassamr has lost many friends who have sought to flee oppression in Eritrea.

Michael Bassamr, originally from Eritrea spoke of the many people who are dying try to flee the nation. The Eritrean government enlists all adult men into indefinite military service.

Upon arrival at the Conservative Party Conference, the group was addressed by Conservative MP, Dame Caroline Spelman, the Second Church Estates Commissioner. She welcomed those in attendance and expressed her solidarity with the group as an Anglican. She said: “We all have a responsibility to address the culture of fear and insecurity that we have around the refugee crisis.”

There are many ways in which we can put our faith into action.

She continued: “We must be consistent as Christians. our deeds must match our words. This means offering practical help to those in need – clearing out of cupboards for donations, or offering English lessons.” Dame Caroline praised the efforts of UK aid agencies such as CAFOD and stressed that they are at the forefront of efforts to alleviate suffering in the affected regions.

Dame Caroline speaks to the group and discusses practical forms of assistance for refugees.

Dame Caroline Spelman, MP addresses expresses her Christian solidarity with the group outside of the Conservative Party Conference.

Archbishop Longley then addressed the group. He reminded us that “our prayers should also extend to those attending [the] conference, as policymakers they have the power to act.” He also reminded the group that the event was “not a walk of protest, but rather a walk of witness as we seek to work together to find a solution to this issue.”

See what CAFOD is up to in your area.

Archbishop Longley also praised the success of the walk. He remarked that “it is wonderful to see so many faces, old and new. It is a great opportunity to network and explore how we can work towards confronting this crisis.”

Archbishop Longley addresses the parishioners.

Archbishop Bernard Longley blesses those in attendance and extends his blessings to the decision makers attending the conference.

CAFOD is working with local partner organisations in Europe and beyond to provide practical help to those fleeing their homes. The charity is calling on the UK government to take a fair and proportionate share of refugees – from both within and outside the European Union. CAFOD is also pushing for the establishment of safe and legal routes to enable refugees to reach safety.

The Archbishop and Dame Caroline after addressing the group - with a Lampedusa cross

Archbishop Bernard Longley and Dame Caroline Spelman MP with the Lampedusa cross outside the stunning Birmingham library.

Send a message of hope to a refugee today.

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