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The Unfinished Business of Welcoming the Stranger

December 26, 2010

By Suzanne Rumsey

50 Refugee Families: A Goal Yet to be Reached

The Bible begins with the migration of God’s spirit and ends with John in exile on the Isle of Patmos between those two events the uprooted people of God seek safety, sanctuary and refuge.
–Joan M. Maruskin, The Bible as the Ultimate Immigration Handbook
Written by, for, and about migrants, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. 

On a wall of my cubicle in the PWRDF offices there is a series of photos that strung together read “LAS PAREDES VUELTAS DE LADO SON PUENTES” (Walls turned on their sides become bridges.)  That graffiti appears on the Mexican side of the wall that divides Nogales, U.S.A. from Nogales, Mexico, and it speaks volumes about the biblical vision to welcome the stranger and how time and again that vision is thwarted.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”, we will be reminded in the telling of Jesus’ birth story that that little baby would soon become the “Refugee Christ”.  As Joan Maruskin writes, “The reality is that all Christians owe their salvation to a refugee.”

Since early 2009, when PWRDF signed an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to sponsor 50 Refugee Families (a PWRDF 50th Anniversary initiative), parishes across the country have sponsored approximately 40 families.  The stories that have emerged out of those sponsorship experiences from a youth group in Montreal to the community of Kaslo, B.C. (population 1,029) have told of transformed lives, both for the refugees who have been welcomed and for the Anglicans who have welcomed them.   Walls have become bridges in the welcoming of strangers.
In March 2011, PWRDF’s agreement with the CIC – which includes matching funds to support approximately three months of the year-long financial commitment parishes are asked to make – will come to an end.  Between now and then we are faced with the challenge of securing ten more sponsoring parishes.

Time is short.
If your parish or a group of parishes is interested in participating in this project, please contact me at: [email protected] or at 416-924-9199, ex.267.

This Christmas may we all turn walls on their sides so that the bridges created enable us to welcome the stranger into our midst.


Suzanne Rumsey
Public Engagement Program Coordinator