A brave, compassionate, intelligent woman was murdered for her beliefs yesterday. She spent her life fighting for change through democratic, peaceful debate – not violence.
We give a shit about the same issues that Jo Cox gave a shit about. Maybe this is part of why her assassination, which happened only 200 miles away from us, feels like a very personal attack on our country’s belief that change comes through discussion, not war.
But our democracy is more fragile than we think. When someone can end democratic discussion in such a simple and brutal way, the fundamentals of our world start to change. In the words of the Guardian, “the slide from civilisation to barbarism is shorter than we might like to imagine.”
Jo’s husband said that she would want people to “unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.” So today, in respect to a woman who had a go at the Russian ambassador over the terrible way his country behaved in Syria, we are going to spread some love to our 40,000 followers to try and counter the viciousness that’s gestated in recent debates.
Some of it’s political, some of it isn’t. But we believe in pluralism – that different political, religious and cultural beliefs can exist peacefully side by side.
We also believe that while things are a mess right now, the good outweighs the bad:
Refugees are being welcomed into our city
Millions of people are fleeing their home countries because of war and crisis, and our city is doing what it can to welcome them in beautiful and creative ways. Next week is Refugee Week, so there’s lots of stuff going on.
Writer and refugee Eric Ngalle Charles has written a book about what it means to be a refugee – caught between two worlds and condemned by both. He came to Cardiff on a Zimbabwean passport after fleeing persecution in his village and being illegally trafficked into Russia. The book, Asylum, features several refugees he has met through the creative writing classes he runs at the Welsh Refugee Centre in Splott.
Oxfam are running a campaign for people to write letters of welcome to newly-arrived refugees. You can write a long letter or a short note and post it in one of the special Nation of Sanctuary post boxes at any of 23 Oxfam shops across Wales. Or if you prefer you can write a welcoming email, and send it to email@example.com. To find your nearest Oxfam shops visit: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/local-shops
An exhibition of photos by Megan Howell opened yesterday. Through photographs taken in the Jungle refugee camp over a three-month period in early 2016, it explores the nature of the State, the role of violence and the characteristics of being a refugee in Calais. The exhibition runs until Sat. 25th June. There will be a special event talk on Sunday 19th June 3-5pm in the gallery cafe to discuss the nature of conflict, as well life in the camp by people who have witnessed it first hand.
And G39 and Trinity Centre are coming together to present an event focussing on creative use of texts as part of Refugee Week.
The Oasis Centre support refugees and asylum seekers every day, providing classes, employability workshops, dance classes, a women’s only area, mother and toddler groups and support with letters and phone calls about asylum and refugee issues.
But there are still issues with the Welsh response to the refugee crisis. While every council has committed to resettled refugees, only 78 have been welcomed so far. The fair proportion of the UK number would be 724. Get active and push for change if you believe that’s what is right.
Our politicians want to make our lives better
Yep, some of them are awful, some are odd, or detached, or thoughtless. But from personal, daily experience, the vast majority do the job because they want to make people’s lives better. The success of this relies on the engagement of the people they represent to push them on the issues that matter.
So, find out which politicians speak on the issues you care about, know how to tell them your thoughts, and get engaged. Democracy is our best tool against violence because we all have equal influence. If you’re angry and passionate, push for change through this peaceful process.
In Wales, we have elected representatives at multiple levels. Different representatives are responsible for deciding on particular issues.
For example, if you are concerned about the number of refugees that the UK is committing to resettle, you need to talk to your MP. But if you want to find out about how our hospitals are being run, follow what’s going on in the National Assembly for Wales. For local issues like potholes, the council is responsible. Our MEPs are elected by us to make decisions on EU law and funding like the money that gets spent on programmes and buildings in Cardiff.
You can contact your councillors, Assembly Members, Members of Parliament and the Lords, and Members of the European Parliament through the brilliant writetothem.com website.
Good people are doing good things for people in crisis
Earlier this week, I visited the Trussell Trust at their food bank in Barry. They provide emergency food for people with nowhere else to turn, and they do it without judgment, prejudice or conditionality.
Last year they provided food to 85,000 people in Wales. There are 19 food banks around Cardiff , where people donate food, which volunteers sort, store and then distribute it when someone is referred to them by a professional.
Food banks don’t just provide food though – they also providing a range of new services like money advice and Fuel Banks, helping people to break the cycle of poverty.
These incredible organisations are supporting people in our own communities who don’t have a safety net. They do it for free, and with love.
We celebrate magical, mischievous, creative people like Roald Dahl
Cardiff will soon be transformed for the centenary of one of its most well-known sons, Roald Dahl. As well as being one of our best storytellers, Dahl repeatedly experienced tragedy and pain during his life. He saw the pointlessness of violence and war and chose to use his voice to lighten the world, instead of darkening it.
He was also outspoken and political; he refused an honour from the Queen and spoke about the absurdity of the diplomatic service (he famously said “I’d just come from the war. People were getting killed. I had been flying around, seeing horrible things. Now, almost instantly, I found myself in the middle of a pre-war cocktail party in America”).
In September, the city will be taken over and transformed into a place where the laws of physics and civic predictability give way to the laws of magic, mischief and the unexpected.
They’re seeking 6000 performers for this landmark celebration, needing 2,000 choristers, 1,000 dancers, 50 Morris Minor drivers, 40 bald men, 13 magicians, four brass bands, three excavator drivers, a Spitfire pilot, firemen, circus artists, aerialists, rock climbers, grandparents, children and a performing mouse.
To take part in this two-day spectacular, visit www.cityoftheunexpected.wales and register your interest.
Following the barbarism of the events in Orlando, our city stood with pride of our LBTG community. We’re proud that our city crossed political, cultural and religious lines to condemn a brutal act. And in April our city stood up to say that terrorism can’t divide people after recent attacks. We stand with pride to remember our wars. And we marched with pride to welcome refugees to our city.
People of Cardiff are proud to stand up for what they believe, because there is love here.
See? There is so much more love than hate. So much more to celebrate than mourn. “So much more that unites us than divides us.”
Big love from Hana and Helia, the We Are Cardiff Joy Monkeys xxx
PS. The featured image for this post is Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk, which hangs in the National Museum Wales – isn’t it beautiful?