Justice, Leeds Sanctuary

Communities cross paths to inspire joy and justice

Leeds Sanctuary were privileged to gather justice-seekers from across Leeds on 08 February as the first step towards building a community for anyone with a vision for a city of flourishing people, and the desire to take action. Guests included local councillors, and representatives from local student activist unions, local charities and local community organisations, who were all inspired and encouraged by a guest panel which included Sir John Battle, Deacon Kerry Scarlett and Revd Ian Rutherford of the Methodist Church, and Samra Said of Arts & Homelessness International.

The evening began with an opportunity to hear from the guest panel, who were Sir John Battle, former MP for Leeds West; Revd Ian Rutherford, Faith Sector Lead on Homelessness and Housing, and on Food Security for Mayor Andy Burnham in Manchester; Deacon Kerry Scarlett of the Methodist Church, co-founder of the Adavu Project in Birmingham, and Samra Said, Senior Producer at Arts & Homelessness International. The panel inspired us with stories of times that they have seen communities find a voice; times they have supported people with lived experiences of inequality towards finding a way to respectfully challenge the causes, and how they’ve worked towards campaign wins and co-creation of policy which will change people’s experiences in the future.

Each member of the panel was also invited to share their perspective on the value of faith and spirituality in community organising, with everyone sharing how it centres their value of all people, fuels their determination to make change and prevents them from “burning-out”, and gives them courage to let those experiencing the injustice lead.

Guests of the evening were then invited to discuss their activism and thoughts with others on their table, and while some of the areas in which we seek justice were discussed, much of the conversation centred on belonging; how do we know we belong to a community, how do we make decisions together, how do we find community in life’s transitions, and how easy it is to become isolated.

“Intersections was a great opportunity to connect with a diverse number of individuals from across Leeds and beyond”, explained Dan Robinson, Founder of Incredible Edible Leeds. “We were able to explore the most pressing issues in our society whilst sharing and discussing opinions in a safe and productive way.”

The evening finished with a Q and A with the panel, where guests asked questions about closing the gaps between “elite” people and grassroots communities, and how we share power to bring everyone together and make radical change. We were also offered some words of wisdom about how to keep going as we work towards making change happen, including “never be a lone ranger”.

“Thanks to Leeds Sanctuary for hosting this event, and the great range of people who were part of it” said Ed Carlisle, Green Party councillor for Hunslet and Riverside. “The world’s in a mess, there’s a lot to do – but a key foundation for building a better future has to be building and nurturing connections, discussion, and cooperation across difference. If we work at these, our diversity becomes an asset, to overcome the great challenges before us.”

“Community and social justice voices play an important role in helping shape the priorities that decision makers, like myself, work on,” reflects Paul Wray, Labour Councillor for Hunslet and Riverside. “They highlight concerns and issues that might be otherwise missed in the complex, high pressure, and fast passed nature of modern civil administration. With hundreds of decisions of impact being made in any given week, such campaigns give a moment of pause and reflection to reassess if those priorities are correct. The panel provided clear examples of this from their experience throughout their discussions – showing this is an age for old problem that is just in new and more challenging times.”

If you would like to hear more about this community of justice-seekers, please contact Anna Bland at anna.bland@leedssanctuary.org.uk and for more information about this event, please contact Emily Smith at emily.smith@leedssanctuary.org.uk .

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