Epistle from ‘Envisioning a world that is open to all: let us see what love can do’ Conference at Woodbrooke, Birmingham, UK   27-29 September 2019

Ffriends,

From a gathering of 60+ people[i], including Quakers and non-Quakers, people who have experienced the weight of the immigration system, artists, poets, musicians and singers.

Quaker Faith & Practice 20.23: George Fox wrote to Friends in November 1663, during the time of much persecution:

Sing and rejoice, ye Children of the Day and of the Light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of Darkness that may be felt: and Truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants atop of the hills, and upon them the lambs doth skip and play. And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the Seed Christ is over all and doth reign. And so, be of good faith and valiant for the Truth.

We recognise that the world we live in has many forms of inequality, and our UK systems support the status quo. Privilege has enabled the powerful and affluent countries of the global north to turn places of beauty and sanctity into warzones for their own financial benefit.

“I was born in a land before the crossing of swords on the body
Turned it into a banquet table
Before Bush and Blair turned our rivers to blood
Then they donated millions of tents
Instead of roofs for our houses” [ii]

When people flee the perils and violence at home and make their perilous and dangerous journeys in search of a safe place, privilege and power place obstacles in their way. We hear from our friends with experience how those who made it to the UK are faced with a carefully constructed hostile environment.

They hear themselves describes as monsters, liars, treated as criminals, faced with disbelief and viewed with suspicion. And they are told to go home.

“But if you cut the skin, our blood is the same colour”

“Remember, I am human, I am human”

Our conference has given us time to envision a different world.
In our poetry, we have been reminded that

“God has no religion
God has no bell or minaret
God has the symphony of love
God is love, and love in the air”[iii]

Envisioning a world that is open to all seems a daunting prospect, but step by step we can walk forward.

Our friends of experience tell us that it starts with a smile, a simple act of kindness, a hand of friendship, a listening ear, an open mind, and a willingness to believe, then we can begin to walk together and find the energy to create change. We have the opportunity to amplify their voices, and to raise the volume of our demand for a world based on equality and justice, not on racial injustice, hatred and division.

Change needs to come on so many levels, but we are not alone.  We have the UN Global Compact[iv] which outlines basic principles for adoption on an international level. Rethinking Security[v] reminds us that security lies in sharing the world’s resources, and the decision-making, in creating positive relationships of mutuality of trust; not in power and control.

Militarism and violent conflict have no place in our vision for the future, nor have many of our institutions such as immigration detention, nor this official policy that creates a structurally violent and hostile environment. Language must change.

From space, the earth has no borders. Borders are an artificial construct. Money, power and the internet all move around the world, but many people cannot.

Love is our guide. We have experienced over this weekend the way in which poetry, art, music, dance and singing release the love in our hearts and bring us together to learn and unlearn. Let’s be open to what love can do within each of us.

We invite you to join us in making a difference with hope and amplified voices, and to walk with unconditional love in our hearts,

In Ffriendship

Sheila Mosley and Rosemary Crawley,
QARN Steering Group, on behalf of the Conference.

This is a work by Catherine Henderson harvesting the spirit of the Conference:

[i] http://www.qarn.org.uk/homepage/woodbrooke-conference-27-29-september-2019/
[ii] https://leicester.cityofsanctuary.org/2018/02/23/launch-of-birds-without-sky-poems-from-exile
[iii] https://leicester.cityofsanctuary.org/2018/02/23/launch-of-birds-without-sky-poems-from-exile
[iv] https://quno.org/timeline/2018/12/adoption-global-compact-safe-orderly-and-regular-migration-quno-guide-friends
[v] https://rethinkingsecurityorguk.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/rethinking-security-executive-summary.pdf

The letter is available to download here: Epistle from Envisioning a world that is open to all pdf

Links to other artists who contributed so wonderfully to our Conference:

Ambrose Musiyiwa, poet and a lot more: https://en-gb.facebook.com/CivicLeicester/ and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaVurSlhwCFNnNis-IIeJ-g

Zirak Hamad Daholl Kurdish Ensemble, got us up on our feet Kurdish dancing round the Cadbury Room – Zirak is the Co-ordinator of Muzikstan: https://www.facebook.com/Muzikstan/

Mohsen Keiany, child soldier to political artist:  https://www.mohsenkeiany.com/

Gulwali Passarly, author of ‘A Lightless Sky’ and more: https://gulwalipassarlay.wordpress.com/

Ali Tezik has provided the following links to his film-making:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo12LnHAZEbra4x40ZuLu6Q/videos?disable_polymer=1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g89RzQ5VSoo&t=288s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Lo1_F5ifVg&t=267s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsgYr7MeeRE&t=2s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMfPFk74Xn8&t=300s

Additional links you may find useful:

Marchu Girma and sisters from Women for Refugee Women ran workshops about ending detention: https://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/

Rosemary Crawley from QARN and Agnes ran a workshop to consider what a fair and humane asylum system would look like.

Tatiana Garavito, manager of the Quaker Sanctuary Everywhere programme with Kate McNally from Quaker Council for European Affairs ran a workshop together  exploring the interplay of race, privilege and migration: Sanctuary Everywhere – https://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/social-justice/migration, QCEA – http://www.qcea.org/

Celia McKeon from Rethinking Security ran workshops on what does security mean: https://rethinkingsecurity.org.uk/

Cassidy McKenna from QUNO ran workshops about the UN Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration: https://quno.org/

Lindsay Burtonshaw from QPSW Turning the Tide ran workshops about challenging language used about asylum and immigration in politics and the media https://turningtide.org.uk/about-us/