Celebrating Swansea as a City of Sanctuary

Members and supporters of Swansea City of Sanctuary (SCoS) were honoured to welcome Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal to Uniting Church Sketty (Methodist/URC) on October 8 and 9.

Rev Inderjit Bhogal is the founder and President of the City of Sanctuary movement. He was born into a Sikh family in Nairobi, but his family had to flee Kenya in 1964, as refugees. They settled in Dudley, West Midlands.

The weekend began with an afternoon of singing, dancing and lots of chatter and laughter as everyone got to know each other. This event was arranged by members of SCoS, to celebrate the 10th anniversary (delayed because of Covid) of Swansea becoming the first City of Sanctuary in Wales and the second in the UK in 2010.

More than 50 people attended the event. At the end Inderjit summed up the occasion by sharing part of his life story, and, to the delight of one of the dancers, she discovered he was born in Nairobi, as was she.

The weekend continued the following day at Uniting Church Sketty with a service. Invited guests included the Lord Mayor of Swansea, Councillor Mike Day, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes, whose family were also refugees who settled in Swansea and James McGetterick (Lib Dem Councillor for Sketty) as well as friends and supporters of SCoS.

UCS was fortunate to be able to display the banner which was made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Swansea as a City of Sanctuary. Members of UCS had contributed to this banner.

Inderjit spoke passionately about the conflicts in the world today – Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon and so many more places, and the dangers which refugees and asylum seekers face setting sail in unsafe craft, travelling hundreds of miles to seek asylum.

Around his neck, Inderjit wore a stole made from cords which he found on the first boat to reach Lampedusa. He had also made a small cross from charred wood which he found, together with a sock. These were placed on the communion table. What story could that sock tell?

Murmurs of agreement could be heard when he was speaking and his words were greeted with applause when he finished. I don’t think this has happened before at Uniting Church Sketty!

With thanks to Janet M Neilson