Community engagement with Keech Hospice: Zoom meeting 25 April 2021, 11:00 - 12:00

We arranged a meeting between Keech Hospice staff and members of the community, to promote awareness of the Hospice's services, encourage greater use of the facilities by diverse communities and facilitate dialogue about local needs. Keech Hospice provides terminal care for in-patients, supports patients in their homes and emotionally supports their families. The event was stimulating and interesting, and four bilingual participants offered on the spot to become Keech volunteers.

Click on the links below to see the recordings of the sessions.

Zoom event, 28 March 2021, 16:00 - 18:00 (GMT)

Objective

Forming alliances against racial discrimination and fostering a culture of respect for diversity, equality and anti-discrimination

Focus

An examination of the prevalence of racial prejudices and discrimination and consideration of remedies with a particular focus on Islamophobia and the human rights of unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children

Programme

Welcome: Dr Nazia Khanum, OBE DL, Chair or UNA-Luton

Messages of support: Helen Nellis, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire; Susan Lousada, High Sheriff of Bedfordshire; Councillor Maria Lovell, Mayor of Luton; Sarah Owen MP (Luton North). Other guests included Lord Bill McKenzie and Mitty Tohma, Chair of the Women’s Federation for World Peace UK.

Racism and Islamophobia: Dr Mohammad Alramahi, Principal Lecturer in Law and Chair of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Staff Network, University of Bedfordshire

Without my family: unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children in the UK: Dr Helen Connolly, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Course Coordinator for MA in Human Rights and Social Enterprise, University of Bedfordshire ; University Board of Governors – Academic Representative; Chair of Srebrenica Remembrance Board for East of England.

Click the link below to read Dr Connolly's full report: Without my family: the impact of family separation on child refugees in the UK, published by the Refugee Council, Save the Children and Amnesty International, 2019.

Interactive session: questions, answers and comments facilitated by Dr David Cheesman Secretary of UNA-Luton


View the message from Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations:

Report

The International Day was actually 21 March, but we chose 28 March for our event to fit with diary commitments. The original date was chosen by the United Nations to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre of 21 March 1960, when the South African police opened fire on an unarmed crowd protesting against the apartheid pass laws, killing 69 and wounding about 180. It shocked the world and, far from strengthening apartheid as the government intended, unleashed the antiracist movement which eventually abolished it just over 30 years later, in 1992.

Introducing the event, Dr Nazia Khanum OBE DL, Chair of UNA-Luton, explained that Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has taken his inspiration for this year from the young people across the world who took to the streets after the racist murder of George Floyd to protest against what he called ‘the vicious global pandemic of racism.’ Condemning racism as dangerous, abhorrent and ugly,’ Mr Guterres has set the UN theme for 2021 as ‘Youth standing up against racism.’

Young people are growing up in an interconnected world, where diversity is taken for granted and climate change is the common enemy. Dr Khanum speculated that they may have stronger immunity against the virus of racism than the older generations, so maybe this is at last a turning point. After all, apartheid seemed invincible in 1960, but we saw it crumble with our own eyes.

There were strong statements of support from Helen Nellis, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, and Councillor Maria Lovell, Mayor of Luton, followed by two powerful speakers from the University of Bedfordshire.

Dr Mohammed Alramahi pointed out that islamophobia is a form of racism. It is used as a cover for targeting hatred at particular minority communities. The media have a key role, both positive and negative. Too often, they perpetrate stereotypes. For example, the killing of innocent people is only described as a terrorist attack if it is perpetrated by a Muslim. If a non-Muslim carries out a similar atrocity, it is just murder or mass murder. On the other hand, the media can be a crucial force for good, by presenting the facts and combating misinformation.

Dr Helen Connolly made a disturbing presentation drawing on evidence from her research for Amnesty International, the Refugee Council and Save the Children on the plight of unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children in the UK. Her findings have been published as Without my family: The impact of family separation on child refugees in the UK. Our website has a link to the published report. The arrival of these unaccompanied children in the UK is a testament to the desperation of their parents. One father explained that, if your house is on fire and there is no escape, you will throw at least one of your children out of the window in the hope that they will survive. They have no legal right to bring their families to join them, and many cry at night for their mothers.

Susan Lousada, High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, and Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, gave their responses to the two presentation. The High Sheriff commented that she had been made aware of the efforts of sinister individuals to use the pandemic to play upon people’s fear and suspicion by disseminating fake news about Muslims breaking the lockdown. She had been delighted to give High Sheriff’s awards to local people who had bravely taken a stand to present the true facts. Sarah Owen referred back to the evidence Dr Alramahi had presented that Muslim job applicants are often rejected simply because of their name. She urged employers to practise blind selection. In a recent recruitment exercise, she had instructed Human Resources to remove from the applications all references to name, gender and age. This produced the most diverse shortlist she had ever seen.

All participants were deeply concerned about the circumstances of unaccompanied children.

Government consultation on immigration

The goverment launched a consultation on 24 March about its New Plan for Immigration. This is an opportunity to influence government policy on immigration more generally, and on refugees and asylum seekers in particular.  The closing date is 6 May.

Ideologies of hate will be defeated: Black Lives Matter

UNA Luton supported the worldwide protests that took place against the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020. We hope justice will be done in the trial that has opened. It is the US law ebforcement system that is on trial, not a single police officer.

The protests took place because Floyd's murder is symptomatic of the racism that damages the lives of minorities in many societies, not only in America - genocide against Rohingyas in Myanmar and Uighur Muslims in China, the removal of citizenship from Muslims in India, the displacement of indigenous people in the Amazon basin and across the world and many more examples of community injustice.
In the UK, the USA and Europe, racism has been hardwired into the culture for centuries through the slave trade and the establishment of empire. Slavery has been abolished and the empires are gone, but the imperial mindset persists. It permeates our language and conditions the way we look at the world. We have to recognise its distorting impact and consciously challenge it.

After the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and legislation against racism and discrimination from the 1970s onwards, it sometimes looked as if the battles had been won and it was only a matter of time before we achieved societies which respected people as individuals and promoted equality of opportunity regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, disability and age.

In practice, progress has been painfully slow. The Me-Too movement has highlighted the gulf between expectation and reality on gender equality. Like the murder of George Floyd in the USA, the Windrush scandal in Britain confirmed that slavery is not past history. Black British citizens were deported to the Caribbean countries where their ancestors were transported as slaves even though they lived all their lives in the UK and their parents had responded to the call for workers to rebuild the country after World War II. The mass deaths in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic have shown how little we as a society value the more vulnerable members of our community.

The protests were a wake-up call for change. The deficit persists across all the protected characteristics - age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. We cannot resolve problems unless we recognise their existence. Every individual and institution should question their own attitudes and assumptions and take action to make a difference. For individuals, it means reflection and improvement. For institutions, the response needs to be more structured. Every organisation should carry out a rigorous equality impact assessment of its own policies, practices and procedures, and produce an action plan with measurable targets and realistic timescales to eliminate discrimination and improve equality of opportunity.

We believe the worldwide protests over Black Lives Matter in 2020, and in 2021 the resistance to authoritarian regimes of ordinary people in Myanmar, Russia, Thailand and elsewhere, are a signal that we will not go back to the status quo when the pandemic passes. We will take the opportunity to build a better world.

UN International Human Solidarity Day

Zoom event, 20 December 2020, from 16.00 - 18.00 (GMT) presented in association with the Muslim Professionals Forum

Promoting solidarity for social wellbeing and peace by taking action through faith, interfaith and secular initiatives

Messages of solidarity

Helen Nellis, HM Kord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire

Councillor Maria Lovell, Mayor of Luton;

Susan Lousada, High Sheriff of Bedfordshire

Sarah Owen MP (Luton North)

Rachel Hopkins MP (Luton South)

Speakers

Laura Church, Corporate Director for Population Wellbeing, Luton Borough Council: Strategy for population wellbeing during and after the pandemic

David Jonathan (Johny), Director, Grassroots and Luton Council of Faiths: Solidarity from faith and interfaith perspective

Sr Maire Hayes, Spirituality of Justice Programme coordinator for Grassroots and Luton Council of Faiths and Interfaith Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Northampton: Solidarity with Creation

Vinod Tailor MBE DL, former High Sheriff of Bedfordshire: Solidarity in the voluntary sector – dealing with the challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Kim Greig, Coordinator, Near Neighbours Programme in Luton: Neighbourly solidarity through social action

Meryl Dolling, Chair, Inner Wheel, Rotary Club, Luton North & former High Sheriff of Bedfordshire: Inner Wheel - Women’s solidarity for humanitarian actions

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The Mandela Mile, 18 July 2019

The United Nations has declared 18 July an international day to honour Nelson Mandela. The United Nations Association-Luton sent out invitations to 'walk the Mandela Mile' in Wardown Park, Luton, to promote Nelson Mandela's inspiring principles of freedom, democracy, equality, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

Participants gathered at Wardown House at 10.00 and were welcomed by Dr Nazia Khanum OBE DL, Chair of UNA-Luton. Vinod Tailor DL, former High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, spoke about Nelson Mandela and why we are walking a mile. Meryl Dolling, High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and her Consort, Cllr Michael Dolling, led the guests on the walk around the lake and back to Wardown House where they had a discussion over tea and coffee about the life and work of Nelson Mandela and their relevance to our life and times. Cllr Maria Lovell, Deputy Mayor of Luton, was one of the speakers.

Luton Conference on Commonwealth Women, 26 March 2018

Recommendations to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), 16-20 April 2018

This conference was organised by UNA-Luton with support from UNA-Harpenden and the University of Bedfordshire. It was held at the University of Bedfordshire Luton campus and attended by over 90 people from diverse backgrounds. Most were women from minority communities who were keen to get women's voices heard. They broke into three workshops for lively discussions about forced marriage, female education and climate change. The workshops reported back to the plenary session, which agreed the recommendations on building sustainable and resilient societies that they wished to present to Commonwealth leaders. These were submitted to the CHOGM Commonwealth Women's Forum.

UNA-Luton Recommendations to CHOGM 16 - 20 April 2018.pdf

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