A Sanctuary Service 

What is a Sanctuary Service?

A Sanctuary Service is an opportunity for faith groups to focus a service on the issue of sanctuary, and to reflect on how we can all contribute to creating a culture of welcome and hospitality for asylum seekers and refugees in our communities.

What would be its Contents?

This will vary according to the faith group but it could contain the following:

  • An appropriate reading from a holy text  -  one which emphasises our responsibility to others; the need to care for the distressed and vulnerable etc.
  • A short address based on that text. In the case of a Christian service the obvious Biblical source would be the parable of the Good Samaritan.
  • Prayers on behalf of sanctuary seekers
  • Silent prayer/meditation
  • A short statement of the present sanctuary situation, for example the millions of Muslims in areas like the Middle East and North Africa currently forced from their homes by war and repression and seeking sanctuary.
  • Ideally, there would be a short personal account of his/her experience by a refugee.
  • The need to counter negative images of people seeking sanctuary by providing positive examples.
  • The acute difficulties faced by refugees in the UK today.
  • What practical help can be offered to those seeking sanctuary in Southampton at the present time?
  • Southampton’s proud history of welcoming people seeking sanctuary.

The Asylum Welcome Project

This is a project being developed jointly by local refugee organisations in Southampton: City Life Education and Action for Refugees, Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group and City of Sanctuary Southampton. Its aim is to welcome and support new arrivals in the city by providing bags of essential materials, bags of food and, for the children, folders which include essential school materials – rulers, pens, rubbers etc. Its future plans include:  providing a personal introduction to the city for each newly arrived individual or family, so that they know where they can find support and safety; contributing to a scheme providing language cafes; helping them integrate into the community etc

A Collection?

You might like to consider a collection at the end of the service. For example, asylum seekers, apart from accommodation, are given only  £36.95 a week per individual to meet all their needs. Essentially the same is true in families, with parents receiving £36.95 each,  but also some support is provided for each child. However, I’m informed that the calculation for children is rather complex, varying for example according to age, so that this is an approximation for families.

One important need which cannot be met from this amount is that of transport, such as for their legal obligation to report regularly at a police station; reach the prescribed shops where they can use the Home Office payment card of £35.95; take children to school or the library; visit the doctor; attend an important drop-in centre which is held each Friday morning at the Avenue Saint Andrews Church etc.

City Life Education and Action for Refugees (CLEAR) is attempting to create a fund for buying day passes from local bus companies which could be issued to asylum seekers. Their distribution would be carefully monitored by CLEAR and appropriate accounts kept and made available for scrutiny. They are the ideal group to undertake this task as they are in direct and regular contact with asylum seekers, being the main providers of English language teaching.


If you would like further information about any of the organisations involved, please contact:

  • Clear Project: www.clearproject.org.uk
  • Southampton & Winchester Visitors Group: swvg-refugees.org.uk
  • City of Southampton Sanctuary: southampton.cityofsanctuary.org
Or contact Dennis Cooke, at: denniscooke214@aol.com
Whoe says: I would, for example, be happy to provide some up-to-date information about the numbers of people currently seeking asylum and the very insecure conditions they experience as a result of Home Office policies etc. It may be possible to arrange for a refugee to talk about his/her experiences, but this can’t be guaranteed.

19/04/18, 19/04/2018