A Century of Sanctuary: Welsh Support to Refugees of Conflict past, present – and future?
Through WW1, Wales took in over 4,000 Belgian refugees fleeing the front in Flanders.
Communities Wales-wide were enriched by the cultural contributions they exchanged, and bonds of friendship and appreciation endured for generations – many rediscovered and rekindled over the WW100 centenary.
But this most profoundly human act of peace-building – offering sanctuary to those fleeing war – has echoed through the decades as Welsh communities (despite often indifferent governments and aggressive populist media) welcomed waves of humankind, with human kindness.
Basque children fleeing the Spanish Civil War; Jewish Kinderstransport fleeing the Holocaust; Belgian WW2 refugees; post-WW2 European resettlement; post-Colonial conflicts from India and Africa to Palestine; refugees from Cold War and Eastern Block; Vietnamese Boat People; the Ugandan Genocide of Idi Amin; Somali refugees and those supporting creation of the Somaliland State; Balkan refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo; the first Gulf and second Iraq Wars; Afghanistan; and most recently, refugees of the Arab Spring and Syrian Conflict.
Wales has recently advocated an aim, with its first ‘International Strategy’, to become the world’s first ‘Nation of Sanctuary’.
Yet… if 100 years ago we took in 4,000 in 4 weeks, why – in a world far richer – has it taken us 4 years to take 700? Is Wales genuinely a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ – and how can stories from our ‘peace heritage’ help shape positive action on peace today, to build a better world for tomorrow?