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Accompanying refugees, welcoming strangers

June 20, 2018

By Suzanne Rumsey

Suzanne Rumsey is the PWRDF Public Engagement Coordinator

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
     lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
     she refuses to be comforted for her children,
     because they are no more.
— Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18

World Refugee Day 2018 is a moment to both mourn and celebrate.

Today we mourn the over 68.5 million refugees worldwide, the highest number of people forced to flee their homelands or internally displaced within them. (UNHCR United Nations Refugee Agency)

We mourn the countless thousands who have lost their lives crossing inhospitable land or stormy waters in search of shelter.

And this year in particular we mourn the separation of over 2,300 children, including some infants, from their parents, as they have entered the United States seeking asylum. This morning CBC news reporter Keith Boag said that “the separation of children from their families may not be a temporary thing,” and that, given the challenges of tracking deportations, “reunification may in some cases never happen.”

“Rachel is weeping for her children… because they are no more.”

But today we also celebrate the efforts worldwide to welcome the stranger. At the annual gathering of the PWRDF Refugee Network in early June we learned that Canadian Anglicans facilitated and participated in the sponsorship of almost 1,000 refugees who arrived in Canada in 2017. Add to this the numbers of refugees who have come since the Syrian refugee crisis made headlines in September 2015 and that figure grows to almost 3,500.

We celebrate the prophetic calls being made by inter-faith leaders in the United States including Episcopal Archbishop Michael Curry, who, on June 7 called on the U.S. government “to stop their policy of separating families.”

And we celebrate the call by the Canadian Council for Refugees to our own government to withdraw from the Safe Third Country Agreement.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.
–John 25: 35-36