Dominican College was awarded recognition as a school of Sanctuary last week, the first school in Ireland to be recognised with this honour.
Four cities in Ireland, Belfast, Derry, Dublin and Waterford have very active City of Sanctuary Groups. Causeway Borough of Sanctuary group is currently working hard towards the aim of the area becoming a Borough of Sanctuary.
The school’s Head Boy, Jan Dillenburger- Keenan, introduced the two guest speakers telling his fellow pupils, “Our school is proud to be a school of Sanctuary. A school of Sanctuary is part of the Causeway Borough of Sanctuary group which work collectively and collaboratively for social justice. A school of Sanctuary is a school that helps its students, staff and wider community understand what it means to seek sanctuary and to extend a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of the school community” Jan continued, “So what makes Dominican qualify as a school of sanctuary?
Within the ethos of this school we are committed to helping others; we continue to campaign for social justice through both our St Vincent DePaul and John Paul II groups and, consistent with our Dominican values, we came together at the start of this year to raise awareness and donate to the Cork to Calais refugee appeal. Within our Year 14 RE programme we also explored the issue of immigration to develop our understanding of this issue within and beyond our local society.”
Presenting the School of Sanctuary award to the pupils and staff of Dominican College were Maire Rodgers, a member of Causeway Borough of Sanctuary group and Richard John, secretary of this group and also secretary of the Causeway Multi-cultural Forum.
They spoke to pupils about the way that pupils looked to the outside world to create an ethos of inclusion and safety within the school. Maire, herself a past member of staff of Dominican College spoke of her delight in returning to her old school for such a special occasion, telling pupils, “There was always a warm tradition of welcome within Dominican and a strong sense of pupils and staff looking out for each other”.
Drawing on an old Irish saying she characterised the school’s tradition as “In the shelter of each other the people live”.Richard spoke of Dominican pupils, “You are truly game changers who have worked hard to create a place of safety, a place which would stimulate opportunities for those in our world seeking sanctuary, allowing them a voice within society and ensuring that they are not left out”.
Speaking about refugees and asylum seekers, Richard read from Shylock’s great plea for equality from The Merchant of Venice, allowing pupils to reflect on the trouble, turmoil and terror of fleeing from home and being forced to run for your life.He concluded with the words of St Paul that there are there great gifts, faith, hope and love and that, of these, love is the greatest and told the pupils of Dominican that they continue, in their quest to ensure social justice for all, demonstrate all three virtues in abundance.
To find out more, visit the City of Sanctuary website.