Refugee Week

As part of our ‘Cathedral of Sanctuary’ status, we continue to look for opportunities to both welcome those in our city who have come seeking sanctuary, and also to raise awareness around the wider situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in Ireland and around the world. This includes participation in Refugee Week.

Refugee Week 2022: Healing

The theme for 2022 was ‘Healing’ and our activities included a week-long exhibition of paintings by Syrian artist Manar Alshouha in the cathedral’s South Transept. We also worked in collaboration with friends from asylum-seeker and refugee backgrounds to create a multimedia installation entitled ‘Journeys of Healing’, a moving mural featuring the voices of the poets themselves (video of the piece included below): Selema Paulina Letsie, Nargis Mohammadi, Marie Claire Mundi Njong and Cesar G. 

On 26 June, we held our Sanctuary Sunday service, with Choral Evensong sung by the cathedral choir, and guest preacher Dr Ebun Joseph, Founder and Director of the Institute of Antiracism and Black Studies, and Chairperson of the African Scholars Association Ireland (AFSAI). You can read more about the service on the diocesan website.

Thank you to our participants, volunteers and everyone who called in to see the exhibition!

Refugee Week 2021

We cannot walk alone

A huge thank you to everyone who was part of Refugee Week this year! The theme was ‘We cannot walk alone’ and we were able to include a mixture of in-person and online activities. Special thanks to Ecclesiastical Insurance for supporting the ‘Homing Pigeons: Birds with Wishes’ art exhibition and to City of Sanctuary Dublin for sponsoring lunch and transportation costs for the Sanctuary in Nature and Heritage outing.

Homing Pigeons: Birds with Wishes Exhibition

14-20 June

Good wishes arrive on the wings of fanciful works of art, created by school children in Aleppo, Syria. Organised in collaboration with Places of ARcture, with support from Ecclesiastical.

If you missed the exhibition in person, you can visit the online exhibition here.

‘What’s the Story? Lives in Direct Provision’

Due to uncertainty around the pandemic, we took ‘What’s the Story?’ online this year. We shared five powerful, personal stories, and the video reflections are all available here.

‘We cannot walk alone’ Mural

Participants in our Refugee Week activities as well as our cathedral visitors were invited to make their mark and contribute to this chalk footprint mural over two days. We were able to complete one full circle and start on a second one, symbolising the message, ‘We cannot walk alone.’

Sanctuary Sunday 2021

Introducing the service on Sanctuary Sunday, Dean Dermot Dunne said the week acted as a reminder to Christians not to rest until all had safety and until all who had refugee status had  a place to call home. “Churches have always been places of sanctuary and we pray that this country and the world become a sanctuary, a safe place,” he said.

The lessons were read by Follyvi Simon, a member of the cathedral community and Ana Moraes, NEIC Intercultural Ambassador. Prayers were led by the Revd Dr Laurence Graham of Abbey Street Methodist Church. Cherinet Ayele performed ‘The Journey of Life’ in person. The service was sung by the cathedral choir.

The preacher was Pastor Ebenezer Segatu of Birhan Evangelical Church. He preached on the Parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10: 25–37]. He pointed out that Jesus told the story about what happened to the man on the road to Jericho, not who the man was. Pastor Segatu also noted that those who knew about the loving God, the priest and the Levite, passed the man by while the outsider, the Samaritan, showed compassion. “Jesus showed that the right question is not ‘who is my neighbour?’ but rather ‘Am I a neighbour?’ In this challenging time we are to be neighbours to those who are in need,” he stated.

Sanctuary Sunday

Undaunted by the coronavirus pandemic, we took our Refugee Week 2020 programme on line! What had been envisioned as an art exhibition in the cathedral, a collaboration with the organisations Art Nomads and Welcome Cafe Dublin, was creatively reimagined as a virtual exhibition, a walk through the cathedral to view artworks projected in the cathedral space.

Imagine: A Virtual Art Exhibition can be viewed online here.

We were glad to be able to offer the use of our kitchen as a base for the week for Our Table. Some from nearby direct provision centres called in to collect their meals, while other meals were delivered directly to centres all around Dublin. It was an opportunity to make new connections and invite some from the centres to come for a free guided tour of the cathedral after coronavirus restrictions started to ease later in the summer.

In lieu of a special Sanctuary Sunday service, we instead created a short video prayer reflection shared via our social media.


Film and discussion evening featuring contributions from Stixy Nyaluso (who lived in the direct provision system for a number of years), Sean Binder (formerly a search and rescue volunteer with the Lesvos-based Emergency Response Centre International) and Caoimhe Butterly (human rights campaigner and filmmaker). Following the presentations Ellie Kisyombe, from Our Table, and Angela Moyo, from Busy Fingers Diaries, displayed some of their products for sale, a inspirational demonstration of their tenacity as entrepreneurs.

Sanctuary Sunday, 23 June 2019

We were delighted to welcome the Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal OBE, founder of the City of Sanctuary Movement, and former leader of the Corrymeela Community, as our guest preacher for our Sanctuary Sunday service. Dr Bhogal facilitated the establishment of Dublin City Interfaith Forum in 2012 which continues to flourish today in celebrating and honouring diversity, welcoming people of all cultures and ensuring there is intercultural wellbeing in Dublin city.

Archbishop Michael Jackson (centre) pictured with (from L to R) Dr Damian Jackson (Irish Council of Churches), Ellie Kisyombe, (Our Table), the Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal, and Shepherd Machaya, (DCU University of Sanctuary Representative)

Prayers of Lament, Prayers of Hope

This evening of quiet and reflective prayer took place on 17 June, on the eve of Refugee Week. The evening offered space for scripture, song and reflection and those attending were invited to write down a prayer light a candle or simply offer their prayer in silent solidarity. Some of the prayers shared:

‘Father God, bring humanity to Ireland’s asylum system. Christ have mercy.’

‘Gracious Father, hold all refugees close to your heart. You are

Abba Father. Be their rock and refuge, I pray.’

‘Paz en la Tierra, paz entre los hombres, paz en un mundo justo donde reine el Amor.’

‘Safe and warm, loving home for each and every one of us on Earth. May peace be with us all.’

Human Flow, a film by Ai Weiwei

In partnership with the Irish Refugee Council we were able to host a free screening of Chinese artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei’s visually impactful documentary Human Flow on 18 June. There was such response for the film screen that an additional evening was scheduled to accommodate the interest.

Our Table ‘Food is Culture’ launch

We were delighted to further our ongoing relationship with the asylum-seeker led group Our Table, whose aim is to highlight the need to end the direct provision system in Ireland, by facilitating change through conversation over food. Our Table were on our grounds for four days selling their delicious food creations, led by founder, asylum-seeker and Ballymaloe-trained chef Ellie Kisyombe. Our Table identified Refugee Week as an opportunity to launch their ‘Food is Culture’ campaign and to introduce all our visitors to their tasty, small batch hot sauce line. Their events also included an appearance and reading by author Melatu Uche Okorie whose book, This Hostel Life, is a reflection on her experiences in the direct provision system.