April 6, 2011
By Suzanne Rumsey
(And we have a thank you or two!)
Those who visit the PWRDF website regularly will recall that we posted a story at the end of 2010 entitled ” The Unfinished Business of Welcoming the Stranger”. At that time we reported that 40 parishes across the country had responded generously to the challenge to welcome 50 refugee families to Canada as part of PWRDF’s 50th anniversary celebrations. That’s the good news.
This special program, undertaken through an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is now drawing to a close. And so for the good news… As of the time of writing we have 44 refugee families in Canada or on their way, and six more sponsorships in the works! For those who are good at math, that adds up to 50!
And so we have a thank you or two that need to be extended at this time. The first goes to all those individuals and parishes in 13 dioceses who have given of their time, talents, energy, financial resources and prayers to “welcome the strangers” who have come to us from Colombia, Burma/Myanmar, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq (many of them Palestinians), Sudan, Congo, Liberia, Sri Lanka, Somalia, and Iran.
A word of thanks must also go to The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada, who herself came to this country as a refugee. Madame Clarkson kindly agreed to act as patron of the 50 Refugee Families Sponsorship program and in so doing offered inspiration and encouragement to Anglicans across the country who took up the invitation to become sponsors.
And finally special thanks must go to PWRDF’s Refugee Network who proposed the idea of the 50 Refugee Families, and most especially to Carolyn Vanderlip, who as PWRDF’s 50th Anniversary Program Facilitator made this proposal a reality. Without Carolyn’s expertise, attention to detail, excellent working relationship with the CIC, and patience and passion, we would not be sharing this good news today.
April 4th is Refugee Rights Day here in Canada, the date marking the 26th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s “Singh decision”. As the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) noted in a recent electronic bulletin, “In this decision the Supreme Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees. The Court decided that ‘everyone’ includes refugee claimants in the sentence: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
It is therefore fitting that we are bringing the 50 Refugee Families program to a close at a time when we remember this historic decision that affirmed the full humanity and rights of the “strangers” we welcome. It is in those strangers we have the opportunity to encounter our own humanity as well as the divine; the Christ child who was himself a refugee.