Making Cornwall a place of sanctuary for others will have the knock-on effect of making the county a better, safer and more supportive place for all of us to live, according to a vicar who is helping to organise a unique conference here next month.

The Revd Jeremy Putnam, priest in charge of All Saints Highertown, Truro, is one of the people behind Sanctuary in Cornwall, a conference being organised for December 1.

Speakers at the event will include Gulwali Passarlay, a former Afghan child refugee currently living in the UK, local humanitarian photographer Paddy Dowling, the woman behind Cornwall Hugs Grenfell, Esme Page, and Manda Brookman, the social entrepreneur and lecturer who founded Café Disruptif and Cornwall: A Million Acts of Sanctuary.

Also contributing on the day will be Caroline Virgo, project officer of the anti-modern slavery organisation, The Clewer Initiative.

Increase in hate crime

Jeremy, who also chairs Cornwall Refugee Resettlement Network, said: “We are trying to respond to the large increase in the reporting of hate crime, but also to the refugee crisis which has not gone away, despite the fact we see less about it in the media at the moment.

“Because of the issues that Cornwall faces itself in terms of social deprivation and challenges in education, housing and other sectors, it sometimes feels like we are divided in terms of ‘them and us’. People understandably ask questions around why we should be looking after others when we have very acute needs among those who might be perceived as ‘our own’.

False dichotomy

“But that is a false dichotomy: our acts of generosity and support of others actually promotes our own self-esteem, and has a hugely positive impact for us and for Cornwall. The idea that we should look after ourselves first is actually contradictory, because when we build our communities around projects it actually creates community cohesion and a greater sense of worth. It can help us to tackle things like isolation and loneliness. It actually forms communities.

“Cornwall has a history of welcoming strangers. St Piran was a refugee, but Cornwall welcomed him with open arms.”

The organisers have invited schools, businesses, and community groups to take part in the conference and hopes that they will want to declare themselves places of sanctuary.

The conference is a partnership between Cornwall Quakers, Cornwall Refugee Resettlement Network, Turning the Tide and RJ Working, All Saints Highertown and the Diocese of Truro.

Two thirds of the seats have already been reserved, but there are around 30 left for people who would like to get involved. People who would like to reserve a ticket (priced £15, including lunch) should email: