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Language: English / GĂ idhlig

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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 13 June 2017

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Oath, Topical Question Time, Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2015, Human Trafficking and Exploitation, Decision Time, Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002


Contents


Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Good afternoon. The first item of business is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is Hannah Rose Thomas, who is a creative director for art projects with refugees to commemorate world refugee day.

Hannah Rose Thomas

It is a great honour to have been invited to speak today.

I would like to invite you to imagine yourselves in the shoes of a refugee, forced to flee your homeland and the unimaginable horrors of war. Consider how it would feel to have lost loved ones, your home and all that is known; to be plunged into the unknown, desperately seeking a place of refuge.

There are more than 65 million people across the world who have been forced to flee their homes. Too often, we lose sight of the people who have been affected by this global crisis. We forget that they are people and not just numbers. It is easy to perceive them solely as refugees, an economic burden or a terrorist threat. Yet those men, women and children have lives like yours and mine, which are defined by the same basic human needs, hopes and aspirations.

Over the past couple of years, I have spent time in camps in Calais and Jordan, where I partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Relief International to organise art projects for Syrian refugees. My unusual position as an English artist who is fluent in Arabic has enabled me to cross cultural barriers and communicate refugees’ stories. Stepping so far out of my comfort zone has not been easy, but, through reaching out and seeking to understand, my life has been enriched.

It is human nature to fear those who are different from us, especially in the current tense political climate that accentuates difference and fear. However, when we close down the borders of our hearts to those who are different, we impoverish ourselves and restrict and limit our own lives. It is important, now more than ever, to recognise our common humanity with the people fleeing their homes across the world. As Jo Cox said in her maiden speech, we have more in common than we have that divides us.

I believe that nothing is more important than compassion for one another. Through my portrait paintings of refugees whom I have met, I seek to convey that each of us is created in the image of God and is equally valuable in his eyes, regardless of race, religion, economic circumstance or social status.

Let us seek to keep the borders of our heart open to those who are different from us. That is essential if we are to overcome the distorted agendas of violence and extremism that seek to divide us.