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Dublin’s “Sanctuary Cathedral” provides new home for asylum seekers’ food campaign

Posted on: February 19, 2018 4:31 PM
Photo Credit: Our Table

An organisation that campaigns for an end to rules that prevents asylum seekers in Ireland cooking their own food has found a new home in Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral. Christ Church was designated as Ireland’s first Cathedral of Sanctuary at a launch dinner on Friday to mark Our Table’s new home. Under Ireland’s Direct Provision system, asylum seekers are not allowed to work or cook and are forced to “eat food prepared at set times on an industrial scale by companies profiting from the system,” Our Table said. An Our Table café will operate at the cathedral every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“I am delighted with both the initiative and the compassion shown within the city of Dublin,” Dr Michael Jackson, the Archbishop of Dublin, said. “As a city we now have a University of Sanctuary (Dublin City University) and a Cathedral of Sanctuary (Christ Church). Both are places of welcome with a strong sense of community, local and international.”

Under the Direct Provision system, adult asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are given just €19.10 Euros (approximately £16.92 GBP) per week; with just €15.60 per child. “This cruel and unnecessary system needs to end, but in the meantime, Our Table is advocating for the rights of people in Direct Provision to cook for themselves and their families,” the organisation said on its website. “Banned from cooking in their rooms, some people secretly cook in toilets just to prepare something they want to eat. People living in Direct Provision report being hungry at night or being presented with low quality or culturally inappropriate food.”

At the Our Table café, founder Ellie Kisyombe and her team of staff and volunteers will “prepare and serve fantastic food as well as spark change through conversation about Direct Provision,” a spokeswoman for the united dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough said. “Sharing food with others is one of the most human things in the world. So much of our cultures revolve around the preparation, sharing and ritual of food. However, in Direct Provision, people are denied the chance to cook and share food in the ways that matter to them.

“Our Table is trying to change that along with campaigning for the right to work. It started when Ellie along with other women came together to cook their favourite recipes, taste each other’s food and learn about each other’s culture.”

Kisyombe arrived in Ireland from Malawi eight years ago and was placed on Direct Provision. At the launch dinner on Friday, she spoke of the loneliness and anger experienced by the 5,000 people living in Direct Provision. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude,” she said. “We don’t want to kill our dreams. We do everything to carry our hope. This is reality and this is me. This is real for over 5,000 people [in Direct Provision] who have found a home in Ireland. We can’t call it home but it is home and we will call it home,” she stated.

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Asylum seekers living under Ireland’s Direct Provision system enjoy a meal at the new home for the Our Table café in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at a launch event on Friday, alongside church and civic dignitaries.
Photo: United dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough

The Dean of Christ Church, Dermot Dunne, said that the cathedral’s spirituality was balanced by its social concern. “Our Christian witness seeks to embrace the issues of our times and engage with the social problems of our wider community,” he said. “It is a natural yet extraordinary departure for our community to engage with the Our Table project. I am very pleased that we continue to engage with the Direct Provision issue and endeavor to bring the issues to an audience that would not be aware of or engaged with those who live in Direct Provision.

“I couldn’t think of a better way of sharing experiences than sitting down together and sharing food.”