Picnic held to welcome refugees to Belfast

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By VIEW deputy editor Kathryn Johnston

‘Can you feel the love tonight?’

These were the words of Colin Flinn, chair of Belfast City of Sanctuary, who said last Sunday he was delighted with the  huge ‘Refugees Welcome’ message at the Great Refugee Week Picnic in Ormeau Park.

Several hundred people joined Amnesty International and Belfast City of Sanctuary (BCoS) Great Refugee Picnic last Sunday to show their support for promoting and building a culture of welcome and hospitality for people seeking sanctuary and a home in Belfast.

Belfast City of Sanctuary was founded on March 1, 2018 at Belfast City Hall –  reflecting the partnership ethos of BCoS, which is made up of members of the host community and members of the refugee, asylum seeker and newcomer communities.

BCoS operates entirely on the basis of voluntary work by members of the committee and a small but growing pool of members and supporters.

John O’Neill, secretary of BCoS said: “We work in close partnership with the refugee and newcomer communities, public bodies and community and voluntary organisations. Our main work recently has been working in close co-operation with the Education Authority  and Urban Villages to promote the establishment of ‘Schools of Sanctuary’ in the Belfast area.

“We have recently formally designated 12 primary schools in the Belfast area as Schools of Sanctuary and are also working closely with Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre and Belfast Metropolitan College in developing and providing courses on ‘Understanding Northern Ireland’  trying to explain the politics and culture of NI to newcomers.’

Colin Flinn, Chair of BCoS, in thanking everyone for coming to the Picnic, said: “This is Belfast – as welcoming and warm as it should always be.

“What a gorgeous day of sun, fun, friendship, neighbours, diversity, music, food, clowns, juggling, face painting… and welcomes.”

Colin went on to thank “our partner, Amnesty International, and our supporters at the NICRAS, Community Relations Council, Africa House, Awni NINiconi Northern Ireland, NIC-ICTU, NIPSA, UNISON,UNITE and many others.

In particular, he thanked Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Deirdre Hargey for spending so much time at the picnic.

‘Huge thanks to those who provided the wonderful food, music, clowning and face painting and all who organised and volunteered today’s event.

Colin ended by saying, ‘This afternoon reminded me of the Lion King –

“Can you feel the love tonight
The peace the evening brings
The world for once in perfect harmony
With all its living things.”

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