For more than two decades, parishes in our diocese have been helping refugees regain their self sufficiency and self determinacy, warmly welcoming them into the communities of the diocese, providing emotional, physical, and financial support and protection as they resettle in Canada. It is just one of the ways we continue to live into our diocesan vision of being disciples of Jesus, himself a refugee.
World Refugee Day is designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict and/or persecution.
According to information from the United Nations Refugee Agency, by the end of 2019 at least 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes due to human conflict. Among them are over 20 million refugees, having crossed an international border, around half of whom are under the age of 18.
“As COVID-19 has drastically affected the world, one thing is certain — those who were vulnerable before, are now, due to COVID-19 even more vulnerable,” said Scott McLeod, diocesan refugee sponsorship coordinator. “With borders closed, and flights canceled there has been a massive slow down in sponsorship activities, from submissions and processing to arrivals.”
Still, despite the challenges of the pandemic, in 2020 the Diocese of Niagara:
- submitted applications for 27 cases totalling 49 people.
- welcomed 15 newcomers to Canada; and
- completed the resettlement of 14 sponsorships cases.
The diocesan refugee sponsorship initiative is always working away in the background, even through the pandemic. As one of over 120 Sponsorship Agreement Holder organizations in Canada, parishes of the diocese, as well as interested community groups, provide care and hospitality to sponsored refugees as they resettle in Canada through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program of Canadian government.
“We continue to respond as we are able and urge as many parishes as possible that are able to consider taking part in this work and ministry of the diocese,” says McLeod. “This resettlement work undertaken would not be possible without the work of people in our parishes, and in our community; their generous and inspired compassion, their dedication, commitment, time, talent and treasure that makes this ministry possible.”
On World Refugee Day, pray for refugees around the world and consider how the Spirit might be calling you to life through the ministry of resettlement and compelling you to love our newcomer and refugee neighbours, in Christ’s name.
By The Venerable Bill Mous
Niagara Anglican Newspaper, June 10, 2021