August 20, 2018
By Will Postma
It’s been almost three years since the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on the Mediterranean shores of Turkey. So many of us were galvanized by compassion to sponsor families, support in resettlement, advocate and learn more about the conflict in Syria that forced families like Aylan’s to flee.
Though PWRDF does not sponsor and resettle refugees, we are encouraged by the 15 Anglican Dioceses that, over the past three years, have sponsored and resettled 3,500 refugees as Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs). We support our SAH coordinators and gather them for an annual PWRDF Refugee Network meeting. And now we encourage Anglicans and all Canadians to stand behind an important opportunity to welcome more people to this beautiful country.
PWRDF has learned that a University of Ottawa-based refugee group and the Jewish Family Services of Ottawa will administer a new fund to facilitate the sponsorship of 1,000 refugees by the end of 2018. This fund will cover half of the sponsorship costs while the other half will be covered by the Government of Canada’s Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) program. Applications must be submitted by September 17, 2018.
Funding is in place, but what is needed are sponsoring communities to contribute their time to resettling refugees. The opportunity is important not just for the lives of refugee families but to demonstrate to the Government of Canada the steadfastness of the sponsorship and civil society community. A CBC report on the new fund noted that sponsors do much more than pay for things. They pick them up from the airport, help them find housing, help them integrate and find social supports. Often life-long friendships are formed.
To learn more about and apply for this special opportunity, visit
the University of Ottawa’s Refugee Hub.
Today, we in Canada and the West still hear about refugees looking for safety, but not always in a good light. Many call for a tougher stance on migration across the Mediterranean and decry irregular migrants. They say it’s a migrant invasion and cite quotes, burdensome costs, “illegal” methods of entry, extreme multiculturalism, the importance of stronger borders. Is this a crisis or a problem to be solved?
While there are major differences between refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants, let’s not forget that there are important stories embedded deeply in the lives of each person seeking safety and a new home.
I have been in many refugee camps around the world. Today, there are 25.4 million people in the world fleeing war and persecution. Often they end up in very poor countries such as Bangladesh, which is now hosting more than 500,000 Rohingya. The camps are overcrowded, the family shelters are overcrowded and the classrooms are overcrowded, assuming there are classrooms and people who can teach.
But my memories of refugee camps are also memories of hope and hospitality offered by families eager to talk to us. Families who have seen children and grandchildren born in the same confined refugee camp to which they fled 30, 40 or even 50 years earlier. Families still longing for a safe and peaceful home somewhere, somehow.
The stories of refugees and asylum-seekers are important stories of pain, joy, fear, relationships, loss, desperation and hope. The story of Jesus includes a foundational story, the frightful flight to Egypt, by foot and donkey, fleeing persecution and the almost certain threat of death. In Egypt, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were cared for by strangers, perhaps with few means but certainly with enough hospitality to allow them to wait out the persecution. May we feel called to do the same.