This year, the theme of our Christmas assembly was the link between us, the refugee crisis and the Christmas story. We also threw in some entertainment courtesy of the school choir and orchestra. It may seem incongruous but a belting performance of Bohemian Rhapsody the school choir was an amazing opener; a personal highlight from the Christmas concert earlier in the week.
This fed into this clever video: the Christmas story via social media:
Students came up to read a Refugee Christmas.
I concluded with the reflection element:
“You recognise the story, of course. OK, we’ve cut out the shepherds, the star, the wise men and lots of other details, but it’s the traditional Christmas story … Or is it? The experience of this family is also the experience today of the migrant families, the refugee families, the asylum-seeking families that have been trudging their way from the Middle East and Africa, searching for a place of safety. They’ve been forced to travel by the actions of governments, by fear for their lives.
For months now we’ve been fed the news stories from Greece and Italy, from Hungary, from Germany and France. We’ve seen refugees in flimsy boats, families asphyxiated in locked vans, tent cities on the beaches of holiday resorts. Some of us found ourselves caught up in the crisis at Calais as desperate people tried to storm the Channel Tunnel.
Maybe you’ve been drawn to give some form of aid to the families, through money, food or clothing. Certainly many of you will have expressed your opinion in the debate about how a small, crowded island such as ours can best fulfil the moral obligation to help fellow human beings in their time of huge need.”
As ever, I stress that is works at any level, for people of any faith or no faith. We included a reference to the art work ‘Flight’ – a refugee boat now installed in a church as a symbol of the connection.
Next, a student read (brilliantly) ‘We Refugees’ by Benjamin Zephaniah. Here’s a section:
We all came from refugees
Nobody simply just appeared,
Nobody’s here without a struggle,
And why should we live in fear
Of the weather or the troubles?
We all came here from somewhere.
Our a cappella choral group Vox then sang ‘In the bleak midwinter’ while we showed images from different refugee situations around the world.
To change gear, we wanted to focus back onto our students’ experience in London – a city where diversity is a great strength. This included this superb video of ‘My City’ by George the Poet. We told students about his journey from a Harlesden estate to studying politics and sociology at Cambridge.
Next, we talked about how students can make a difference at Christmas themselves without it costing them anything – by acts of kindness within families and with friends. I told the story of ‘the old lady over the fence’ – a disabled neighbour with a garden that backs onto mine. Sadly, shamefully, we never spoke until the fence between our gardens fell down. Now we’ve made a connection with a neighbour we hadn’t spoken to for 15 years. Her garden was completely overgrown and now, without a fence, we help her to look after it and we’ve decided not to put the fence back up. Making a connection with our neighbours is an important part of building a community. Another example of kindness and community spirit is nicely illustrated in this advert for the co-op:
It turns out that one of my student’s parents made the advert – he was ‘humbled’ that we’d unknowingly included his work in his daughter’s assembly!
We finished with celebrating achievements of contributors to our school community and with a joyous rendition of Merry Christmas Everyone by the enormous school orchestra and choir. A message of joy and togetherness to accompany the deeper moral message that the refugee theme conveys.
Special thanks to Aimee Lyall for sourcing all the material.