Ministry to Refugees

Anglicans of the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador have long been engaged in ministry to refugees.

 

During the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis Canada conducted an emergency airlift of some 5,000 Kosovars who were then housed at military bases. A number of these refugees were subsequently sponsored by parish groups of the Diocese in partnership with the federal government under the Joint Assistance Program.

 

Since that time many people have come to Newfoundland and Labrador as refugees from places like Sudan, Eritrea, Bhutan, the Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, and Iraq. Some of these refugees sought and found a new church home in a parish of the Diocese. Often these parish communities provided a circle of friends along with various forms of support which helped the refugees adjust to life in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Most recently a number of parish groups have responded to the Syrian Refugee crisis by applying to co-sponsor refugees in partnership with the Association for New Canadians (ANC), who have Sponsorship Agreement Holder status with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The ANC provides the same resettlement support they provide to all new Canadians, such as English language training. The parish groups are financially responsible for fifty percent of the income support the family receives for their first year in Canada. In addition, they are responsible for renting and furnishing appropriate accommodation along with any “start-up costs” involved with that. The parish groups also provide social, logistical and emotional support to the family during that first year. This support may involve anything from providing transportation, applying for provincial Medical Care Plan cards, arranging medical appointments, registering children for school, tutoring, and so on. Needless to say, sponsorship is a serious and intense commitment that requires significant financial and volunteer resources.

 

At present there are six distinct sponsorship efforts underway within the Diocese, three of which involve multi-parish partnerships. Under the direction of our Diocesan Bishop, the Right Reverend Geoffrey Peddle, Synod has awarded grants of $5,000 to five of the sponsoring parish groups – about a quarter of the funds required to sponsor a family of five. The first family of Syrian refugees arrived in St. John’s in December of 2015. The second family arrived shortly after in February of 2016. The third family is expected to arrive in July of 2016 and the remaining families are expected at some point during 2016.

 

Parish communities also provide indirect support to refugees through the support of, and partnerships with, organizations like the ANC, in providing food, clothing, furniture, as well as providing space for refugee support activities.

 

Jesus says of his disciples, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” It is through our various ministries to refugees that the parishes of the Diocese live out our Lord’s call to welcome and care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. 

 


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