Overview: Listen to the Story
Refugees are God’s image-bearers. They are students, bankers, teachers, farmers, businesspeople, lawyers, stay-at-home parents—but their lives have been upended by persecution, war, or violence. “A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group” (United Nations definition).
Canada has often been a place of welcome for refugees--from the welcome of Vietnamese people in the 1970s to welcoming Syrians more recently. And Canadian congregations, including many Christian Reformed congregations, have been an important part of that work of the Holy Spirit!
And yet there is work to be done. Non-Syrian refugees and their sponsors are still waiting for faster processing times. Families are still waiting to be reunified. Refugees need communities to thrive in and contribute to. And Canada needs them.
Welcoming refugees can draw our communities together in new ways, contribute to the lively diversity of our country, and even call us to become the church that Jesus calls us to be—turned from the temptation to wring our hands about shrinking budgets and diminishing cultural influence toward courageous, faithful action for the sake of others.
“Refugees need communities to thrive in and contribute to. And Canada needs them.”
For decades now, CRC members have discovered the face of Christ among those seeking refuge—and the story continues. Read stories of CRC congregations and members all around the U.S. and Canada welcoming, helping to resettle, and being blessed by refugees in our Welcoming Refugees project!
Living the Biblical Story
The Bible tells the stories of many refugees, people forced to flee their homes because their lives were in danger. Our Savior, Jesus, and his family fled to Egypt. Paul had to be lowered from an opening in the wall of Damascus to escape persecution after he became a Jesus-follower. Aquila and Priscilla, early church leaders, were forced to leave Rome, along with many other Jews, by the Emperor Claudius. Many of the “great cloud of witnesses” were refugeed people.
Again and again, God reminds his people that we were once foreigners—the Israelites were once oppressed in Egypt, and we all were once estranged from God—and now we must treat with hospitality those who are not native-born in this country. God even goes so far as to say, “Love them as yourself” (Lev. 19:33-34)!
Scripture is also rich with examples of people welcoming strangers only to find out that those strangers brought unexpected blessing. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2). It takes a neighbourhood to welcome a refugee, but it also takes a refugee to make a neighbourhood. When we welcome as Christ welcomes us, we may well be transformed.
Check out our Resources section for Refugee Justice worship resources such as prayers, liturgical materials, children’s worship materials, and devotions.
Education: (Re)learn the Story
Media reports are swirling with contradictory stories about who immigrants and refugees are, why they’ve come to Canada, and what our response should be. Learn more about Canada’s legal responsibilities to those crossing the border, and other facts about how we can respond with welcome once they arrive.
The Office of Social Justice, the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, and World Renew invite you and your congregation to recognize World Refugee Day throughout the month of June by celebrating the contributions of refugees to your community and remembering the plight of refugees around the world in prayer and calls to action. World Refugee Day is usually marked on June 20, but whenever you choose to celebrate and remember, we hope these resources can be useful to you.
Refugees are our neighbours. When we think of refugees, we often hear the biblical call to “welcome the stranger.” And welcoming the stranger is a good first step. But in this increasingly interconnected world, these strangers are our neighbours, and we need each other. Journey with Me is a toolkit of resources—Sunday school plans, film discussion questions, worship materials, and more. The cornerstone is a 90-minute interactive workshop that aims to help Christian citizens work with their refugee neighbours for justice.
Through World Renew and other Sponsorship Agreement Holders, Christian Reformed churches have welcomed families to Canada from all over the world since the 1970s. To learn about World Renew’s refugee resettlement work and to get involved, visit their website here.
What are the policy challenges being faced today by refugees and those sponsoring them (including many churches) through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program? Drawing on the responses that representatives from various organizations provided through a survey and interviews, this report from Citizens for Public Justice highlights four main areas of concern: long wait times, long wait times for non-Syrian applications, allocations limits, and travel loans.
Featured Resource: Petition to Improve Refugee Settlement
For many years, refugee advocates have called for changes to the Immigration Loans Program, which provides new immigrants and refugees with loans to cover the costs of their relocation to Canada.
Recently, the federal government amended the program to discontinue the practice of charging interest on loans and extend the repayment period.
But despite these important steps, a problem persists: the fact that refugees must repay them at all. For just 40 cents per Canadian, we can take down this barrier to refugees resettling well in their new homes.
Join the call to ask the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to continue with this progress and fully exempt resettled refugees from travel loan repayment!
Together with partners at World Renew, the Mennonite Central Committee, and Citizens for Public Justice, we've written a letter and created a petition to call on the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to fully waive travel loan repayment for all refugees.
Learn more: Petition Backgrounder (PDF)
1. Print the petition: The official petition can be printed double sided or on individual pages.
2. Collect signatures: Encourage those in your community to sign and circulate the petition in their networks.
3. Mail petition to Citizens for Public Justice: Send your completed petition to 501-309 Cooper Street Ottawa, ON K2P 0G5 by May 18, 2018.
Connect with us
Advocacy: Be Part of the Story
Ask Parliament to Improve Refugee Resettlement
Can you imagine escaping a dangerous situation & beginning a new life in Canada...with $10,000 in debt? That's the situation for many refugees due to Canada's travel loans program. For just 40 cents per Canadian, we can take down this barrier to refugees resettling well in their new homes. Will you contact your MP and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship to voice your concern?
(You can also invite your church to speak up with you on this issue using the petition in our featured link above.)
Urge your MP to Support Stronger Refugee Resettlement
The Canadian government recently released the numbers of immigrants and refugees our country will be welcoming in 2017. The target for Government-Assisted Refugees is less than a third of last year's target numbers. Now is not a time for Canada to slacken on our commitment to being a world leader in refugee resettlement. These new targets hinder efforts to resettle vulnerable refugees from all areas of the world. Will you contact your MP to voice your concern?
Advocate for Improvements to the Refugee Resettlement Process
The government of Canada has made significant commitments to welcoming refugees in policy announcements and budget commitments. Going forward, the Centre for Public Dialogue will be encouraging policy makers to
- continue improvements in refugee family reunification processing.
- take steps to welcome refugees from all areas of the world where displacement is a reality: Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia, the Great Lakes Region in Africa, and parts of the Horn of Africa.
- address delays and build a deepening partnership between the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship and Sponsorship Agreement Holders, such as our partner World Renew, and other refugee service providers.
How do I contact legislators? Is it better to call, or to write? What do I say?
Learn this and more with our helpful advocacy guide.
Letters to Parliament
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