Many of us have been moved recently by news coverage of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and making a hazardous journey to start a new life in Europe and beyond, as homeless strangers seeking a new home.
In the face of a humanitarian crisis like this, some may ask you - you may be wondering yourself - about what the church is doing, and the insert in the bulletin is intended to give you some basic information.
Here at St. Andrews we have a long history of coming to the aid of refugees that goes back to the plight of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970’s.
The A. family is our next sponsorship obligation, and after many months of preparation we are now on the point of filing the application with the federal government. There will still be a waiting period, likely of some months, before the family arrives, and in the meantime the settlement team chaired by Barbara S. will be hard at work to prepare for the arrival of the family.
You can support St. Andrew’s sponsorship program by cheque. We established the millennium refugee sponsorship fund at the turn of the new millennium in 2000 when the Kirk Session, on behalf of the congregation, decided to re-invigorate our program of refugee sponsorship. Since that time we have helped several families to settle in Canada.
If you visit the website of Presbyterian World Service &Development you will see a more detailed description of the work that the Presbyterian Church in Canada is doing to support refugees worldwide, and especially Syrian refugees.
With the announcement yesterday that the federal government intends to spend more money to assist Syrian refugees, it is likely that your donation to PWS&D will be matched by a contribution of federal money.
We know that the number of people afflicted in this way is in the millions, and some will no doubt say that the mere size of the task is beyond our means. There is no doubt that our leaders face a substantial challenge, but I suggest to you that as Christians we cannot simply throw up our hands as if to say that because we cannot do everything that therefore we will do nothing.
So what shall we do?
As you will see from the PWS&D website, as a denomination we are asked to pray for refugees everywhere, and learn more about the root causes of large scale population movements around the world. And in addition to the financial support and the concrete work of sponsorship that I have already mentioned, we are asked by the national church to advocate on behalf of displaced people, perhaps by writing a letter to our political representatives, especially at the federal level, both those who are currently serving and those who these days are seeking to serve.
May God give us grace faithfully to continue the work of hospitality.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Update from the PWS&D website: On September 12, 2015, the Government of Canada announced the establishment of the Syria Emergency Relief Fund. For all eligible donations made until December 31, the Government of Canada will contribute a matching amount towards Canada’s “Syria Emergency Relief Fund.” For more information about the government’s matching program, click here.