August 15, 2019
By Janice Biehn
As political posturing in the United States continues to stir anti-immigration sentiments, Christian relief and development organizations in Canada, including The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, have collaborated on a letter to President Donald Trump.
The letter expresses “our deep concern about recent reports that some US Government officials have proposed that no refugees be admitted in Fiscal Year 2020.”
“PWRDF is proud to support this initiative of the Canadian members of Action by Churches Together,” says Will Postma, PWRDF Executive Director who signed the letter along with Karin Achtelstetter (Executive Director, Canadian Lutheran World Relief); Ida Kaastra Mutoigo (Director, World Renew, Canada); Guy Smagghe (Director, Presbyterian World Service & Development) and Patti Talbot (Team Leader, Global Partnership Program The United Church of Canada).
The letter notes these church organizations have “a 40-year track record of welcoming refugees to Canada (in collaboration with our government) through the Private Refugee Sponsorship Program. In Canada, we have pressed our government to support the rights of the migrants and refugees in the migrant caravans from Central America; find a way to open Canadian borders to the migrants and refugees in the caravans and repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the US.”
The letter also notes how important refugee settlement is “in ensuring safety for people fleeing persecution and in advancing religious and political freedom.”
The letter comes on the heels of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (an ACT Alliance member) voting to become the first sanctuary church in North America, committing to “provide shelter to undocumented immigrants and protect them from unnecessary jailing and deportation,” according to an ACT Alliance press release.
“Accompanying refugees in these times of fear and trauma is critical,” says Postma, noting they have lost their homes, livelihoods and in many cases, family members. Yet refugees contribute to economic growth and Postma notes Canadians have learned so much from refugees’ stories, hopes, hard work and desire to give back.
“We are encouraged by Anglican Dioceses who sponsor and resettle refugees. They are contributing to a globally-acknowledged effective program of citizen engagement in caring for women, men and children fleeing persecution,” says Postma. The PWRDF Refugee Network supports Anglican Sponsorship Agreement Holders through an annual gathering of representatives. In the last four years alone, 15 dioceses with SAH agreements have resettled more than 4,000 refugees across Canada.
“We encourage the United States government to respond to the plight of refugees with open doors and support, to learn from successes in Canadian private sponsorship and indeed build on the compassion that Americans have shown for their neighbours in need.”