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Resident Thinkers

Week 15: 18 December 2011

Forward Maisokwadzo

Exiled Journalist, Bristol


Forward urges Nowherians to consider the life experience of a refugee and how this might change our perception of who is welcome in our home nations.

A written letter to Nowhereisland Citizens

I am both delighted and humbled to write to you particularly this week as we observe the International Migrants Day on December 18. Eight days after celebrating the International Human Rights Day on December 10.

International Migrants Day is observed in many countries, ‘intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations through the dissemination of information on human rights and fundamental political freedoms of migrants, and through sharing of experiences and the design of actions to ensure the protection of migrants’.

As residents of Nowhereisland, I want to hear how you have grabbed the opportunity brought by this day and recognise the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries, and secondly to promote respect for their basic human rights.

Today, our world is faced with a myriad of challenges. Injustice, war, poverty (the gravest human rights challenge in the world) and persecution continue to put lives in danger. Everyone wants to be safe, so perhaps Nowhereisland is the place to be? But it requires tremendous commitment to the building of cultures of welcome, hospitality and safety for all residents, but especially for those among us seeking safety from harm, and sanctuary.

Just like in any island or society it is the people who can either build or destroy it. The exciting challenge is then how dependent are you residents of Nowhereisland to the outside world bearing in mind the loss of natural law and selfish boundaries erected around us. As residents I strongly believe you can allay any fears by getting real experience and personal interaction with newcomers to Nowhereisland. Find areas of common ground and the right medium to introduce newcomers to Nowhereisland and local citizens to their new neighbours.

Sanctuary! It is the cry that has reverberated down the centuries from those seeking safety from persecution or even death. Now, in 21st century Britain, tension and hostility often surround discussion on immigration. However, Nowhereisland residents maybe would like to know that a campaign to create a culture of welcome for sanctuary seekers in cities around the UK is gaining momentum.

We all belong to each other. We all desire the fullness of life. We find warmth and shelter in each other. The challenge is to tackle injustice and hatred that hurt us all, and to do all in our power to build harmonious and hospitable communities in which all are welcome, belong equally, have hospitality, and are safe, and have sanctuary.

In the context of injustice and people desiring safety it is monstrous that there are those who seek to make money out of other people’s misery. Human trafficking and the occasional sex and child trafficking trade is the modern slave trade. I hope in Nowhereisland such immigration crime will be exposed and ended. Protect the vulnerable.

Nowhereisland residents, I’ll leave you with some food for thought through what inspires me most, wise words from two people:

The legendary Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

And from the radical propagandist and voice of the common man, Thomas Paine: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

Forward Maisokwadzo

Forward Maisokwadzo is a journalist and researcher from Zimbabwe. Currently based in Bristol, he is deeply involved with the local community. He works part-time as a development worker for both Bristol: City of Sanctuary and the Southern Africa Resources Centre, which administers the twinning link between Bristol and Beira, Mozambique.

Outside of Bristol, Forward is ex-coordinator of the Exiled Journalists’ Network and communications officer of the MediaWise Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Media project. He has worked for the Zimbabwe Independent and has freelanced for the Sunday Times, Guardian,South African Sunday Times, and Voice of America. Forwards is also in the final year of writing a PhD thesis on ‘The Notion of Framing HIV by the Zimbabwean and UK Press.’

Forward is chairman of the Bristol Zimbabwe Association, a community with the collective aims of raising awareness about the state of affairs in Zimbabwe, preserving and promoting Zimbabwean culture, and providing support for Zimbabweans both in the UK and in their home country. He is also chair of the African Voices Forum- a membership organisation of African and Caribbean community organisations in Bristol. He is one of the Directors of AfrikaEye. And he is a trustee of a local based refugee charity, Bristol Refugee Rights. His non work activities involve both playing and watching football. He is a devout Christian.

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Nowhereisland is a Situations project led by artist Alex Hartley, one of 12 Artist Taking the Lead projects for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad funded by Arts Council England. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the University of the West of England, Bristol; Bloomberg; Nicky Wilson Jupiter Artland; the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Yellowbrick Tracking.

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