Report: The Sanctuary Walk for Refugees

Sanctuary Walk for Refugees 2

Recently I wrote to you about the planned Sanctuary Walk for Refugees in Scotland. Well, last weekend we walked with fifty students, faculty and friends of the University of Edinburgh in pilgrimage to an ancient Celtic site of hospitality to support the growing vision of sanctuary for refugees in our university, city, and nation. Importantly we were joined by six young Syrian men who have found new beginnings among us.

One of them, Ibrahim, shared his story with me as we walked together over the great Forth Road Bridge that connects the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland. He had managed to escape from Syria after being tortured by the Assad regime in Damascus. His path to safety took him over vast stretches of Europe as far as Calais on the west coast of France. But there, because of restrictive British Government immigration policies, he was allowed to travel no further in his hope to join his brother in Scotland. Ibrahim decided to buy diving equipment and bravely entered the cold waters of the English Channel, swimming beneath the surface to a ship bound for England. Successfully clambering on board he was able, in international waters, to claim refugee status. A number of hours later he arrived safely in Dover to be processed officially as an internationally displaced person. As soon as he could, Ibrahim headed for Scotland to join his brother. The night he arrived in Edinburgh was the beginning of Advent. The streets and tree-lined paths of the park beneath the Castle had just been lit for the Christmas season. When he saw such a city of welcoming light he said to himself, ‘This is my place of new beginnings’.

Light at St Bridget's KirkThank God, it has been such a place for Ibrahim. He has found welcome here. He is working hard at his English as well as volunteering with a Scottish charity. The hope is that by next year he will be ready to study at the University.

It is for young people like Ibrahim that we walked in pilgrimage last weekend. The University of Edinburgh is the first Sanctuary University in Scotland, waiving tuition fees for refugees. It has also agreed to match the funds that we raise for the University’s Humanitarian Assistance Fund. So far, through the Sanctuary Walk for Refugees, we have raised over £8000. This means that already there is over £16000 of additional support for the subsistence of refugees during their time of study in Edinburgh. Please help in building this amount even further so that others like Ibrahim may say, ‘This is my place of new beginnings’.

Heartbeat is committed to acts of compassion. Please join us. You can make a gift which is tax-deductible in the United States here (please designate for Refugee Fund) or through the ‘Just Giving’ tab at the University of Edinburgh’s Sanctuary Walk contribution page.

With my gratitude to you and blessings,

John Philip Newell

Co-founder, Heartbeat

(You can also send a check to HEARTBEAT, 5431 NE 20th Ave, Portland, OR, 97211)