Wednesday 28 January 2015

Leeds a refuge for Jews

Last night I watched a fascinating programme (Children of the Holocaust, 20h00, BBC 4) which interspersed cartoons illustrating how children had escaped the Holocaust with contemporary interviews with the survivors.  I was touched and, perhaps illogically, proud  that a number had landed up and remained in my own city of Leeds.

I'm more justly proud of the fact that the church I attend  in Leeds carries on this tradition of  welcome by providing classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to current refugees and asylum seekers.  We have one professionally qualified leader and some half dozen volunteer teachers of which I am one. We open for business in various parts of our vast church complex and a neighbouring church twice a week and have 70 or so "students" of varying ages and abilities.

My own "intermediate" group has ten regular attenders from several  countries inducing Iran, Eritrea, Afghanistan Ethiopia and the Sudan.  I have little idea of why most of them are here since I have been advised that many of them will have endured traumatic experiences and the retelling of them can revive the pain.  So we just get on with the job of welcoming them and helping them to get to grips with our somewhat idiosyncratic language. It's usually quite good fun.

This is a far cry from the views towards immigrants encouraged by the red-tops and UKIP, and the attitude of our current Home Office under its succession of hard line ministers from both  the Labour and Tory parties. I'm just gad that we in our patch are still able in a small way to carry on a humane Leeds  tradition which gave succour to the dispossessed seventy years ago.

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