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Photo: Moving marionette

05 November 2021

Alamy

A GIANT puppet of an unaccompanied child refugee arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral at the end of last month, having walked thousands of miles in the footsteps of refugees from Syria to London.

“Little Amal”, as the puppet is called — “Amal” means “hope” in Arabic — is following the thousands of unaccompanied child refugees who have fled war-torn Syria in search of safety. Created by the Handspring Puppet Company with Good Chance Theatre as a “living” artwork, Little Amal embodies the story of a nine-year-old girl who has become separated from her mother. On her journey, which was due to end in Manchester on Wednesday, she has met with both welcome and hostility, reflecting the emotions that greet real refugees on their perilous journeys.

She has been pelted with stones in Turkey, and faced up to objections from the mayor of Calais, but was also blessed by Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Her journey is intended to focus the world’s attention on the plight of refugees and to open people’s hearts, those behind the project say. One of the producers, David Lan, said that the project has encouraged thousands of people along the route to reflect on their attitudes towards refugees, particularly towards the hundreds of thousands of displaced children fleeing conflict.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, addressed the 3.5-metre tall puppet on the steps of St Paul’s, saying: “The dome of St Paul’s is known around the world. Our doors are big enough to receive you.”

The Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, the Revd Lucy Winkett, is a “faith friend” of the Walk with Amal project, having been involved since the beginning. The project, she said, was continually bringing people together, as Little Amal travelled on her journey through eight countries.

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