A memorable and moving concert took place on the evening of Saturday 24 June to mark Refugee Week, which this year had the theme of Compassion. The initiative came from Ooberfuse, an alt-pop Indie duo with a solid global fan base, based in Woolwich parish with the Archdiocese of Southwark in South-East London. The band has played hundreds of gigs worldwide, and composed and performed songs for papal visits and youth festivals.
An "Inspiring and Beautiful Initiative"
Ooberfuse's songs advocate against injustices suffered by people who are scapegoated and blamed for society's problems. Philippine-born Cherrie Anderson, the lead female singer says,
“If listeners follow where the song leads, then instead of looking at the homeless and dispossessed as people to be pitied, they would instead see themselves."
Their latest release, "Show Me love", marked Refugee Week and features additional soulful vocals from Kurdish refugee, Newroz Oremari, as well as instrumental work from Hal St John, the other half of the founding duo. The group visited Dover at the end of May to film scenes for the video that accompanies the song. They were impressed by walking along the iconic cliffs and beaches that are the first sight of Britain for those arriving by sea seeking safety, and resolved to return and hold a concert featuring other exiles and supporters. This was rapidly arranged a few weeks later, with help from the local asylum seeker support organisation, Seeking Sanctuary, a member of the Caritas Social Network.
Cherrie explained the band's rationale for becoming involved in Refugee Week:
“The main message of Refugee Week is that we should welcome refugees, they are a valuable part of our UK society, and we should all do that we can to help them thrive here. The Week also highlights injustices and raises awareness in the international community.”
Tsering Passang, who contributed to the concert is not a regular performer, but felt compelled to contribute. He was born and grew up in a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal, and is founder and chair of Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities. He provided several haunting Tibetan melodies on his bamboo flute to break up his account of his upbringing, moving from one camp to another for food, shelter and education. He queued for food supplies with other children in front of a local distribution depot, donated through the UN Food Programme.
Tsering came to the UK to study, and now strives to give back to society, firmly believing that all should help one another in times of need.
Another contributor was Cameroonian exile, Bantu Tikar, who finds joy in singing as, to him, it is about loving and honouring each other.
Farm Street parish priest, Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, introduced each of the performers and reminded us that the concert underlined the message from Pope Francis that appears on one of the Dover seafront plaques remembering those who have died on perilous journeys, “Each of them has a name, a face, and a story.”
This video above presents material from the concert and from a pause for reflection at the Dover memorial plaques and features an excerpt from "Show me Love".
The European Co-ordinator at the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Flaminia Vola, described the event as an "inspiring and beautiful initiative" and thanked all at Seeking Sanctuary for their service to the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, reminding everyone of their face, name and story.