This post is adapted from an article in Fort McMurray Today, Friday September 25, 2015
Where are you at as you consider the dilemma of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond flooding into Europe? Moved? Getting involved? Fearful? Cynical? A group from my church family, Fort City Church, has been moved by this huge humanitarian crisis that is not only changing the face of the Middle East and Europe but is having global repercussions. We have begun the process of exploring bringing a refugee family to Fort McMurray. We’re part of a larger church family, the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada who are an officially recognized Sponsorship Agreement Holder with Citizen and Immigration Canada. A number of other church families in Canada hold similar status.
But for our church family here in Fort McMurray, it’s a journey that from the start has been wrapped in controversy. Not everyone in our city is excited. Some are fearful, that like the Trojan Horse from early Greek history, we are inviting people bent on our destruction free passage into our city and country. Others see this as a misappropriation of money that would be better used to alleviate poverty here at home.
The issues and concerns are legitimate. There is risk whenever you extend your hand to others in compassion. Certainly there is risk when you are dealing with such a volatile part of the world. Should we let fear of a minority of radicalized Islamic people shut the door on the human travesty that is unfolding before us? Think for a moment if it was you who was forced to flee with your family with whatever you could grab, in an attempt to secure life for you and your family?
And yeah, I get ticked every time someone criticizes a refugee for having a cell phone. The point is these are people who had good jobs, decent homes, and even cell phones. At least a cell phone is easy to carry, and keeps you connected as you separate from family and friends.
So what about the issue of poverty in Canada? Really it’s not an either/or issue; it’s both/and. Both are complex. Both require a growing commitment from the average Canadian. Compassion is never either/or.
Those of us who are Christians, as followers of Jesus we are people, where love not fear is the priority as we make decisions. We are people who embrace what Jesus calls the greatest command, which includes: “loving your neighbour as yourself.” We understand the passion of Jesus for the plight of people living in appalling circumstances, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” We have a responsibility to invite the stranger in when the stranger faces devastating circumstance beyond their control.
On a personal note I live in Canada today because of what was to become Canada, opened its arms to over 100,000 Irish refugees in the 1840’s. My family fled the famine and economic destruction of earlier times to find a new life far from home. The history of Canada is the history of a compassionate nation who has been willing to embrace wave after wave of people from all over the world displaced by devastating circumstances.
Out of the 11 million Syrian refugees who have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, let alone those from other conflicted countries, we would like to invite one family in. It’s not much, but it has the potential to be huge for that one family. If this is something you’d like to be involved with, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. And why not join us as we look to get a team together to make this happen. Our first meeting is scheduled for Thursday October 8th, 7 pm at the Modular at Fort City Church. Let’s make a difference for at least one family in need.