In Advent, we celebrate the story of a young family in the Middle East, displaced from their home, facing an arduous journey and great danger. This is especially poignant as more than 10 million Syrians who have been forcibly displaced from their homes by five years of civil war. Responding to this crisis has been part of the Mission & Service of the whole United Church.
And there’s still time to donate to the Syria Refugee Appeal. The Canadian government will match, dollar for dollar, donations made before February 29, 2016.
Ongoing conflict means Syria, along with neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan, continue in a state of upheaval and uncertainty. According to United Church partner Act Alliance, 13.5 million Syrians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance within the country. Over four million people have fled Syria; about half have taken refuge in Lebanon and Jordan. Both countries face huge challenges in managing this influx of people, many of whom arrive with only the clothes on their backs.
United Church partners ACT Alliance and the Middle East Council of Churches continue efforts to provide basic needs for displaced people in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, as well as education and health-care initiatives. Five years of conflict continue to take a heavy toll, particularly on vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, women, and youth.
Using United Church funds held in trust, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank has provided more than $1.5 million over a three-year period to support partners in Syria providing emergency and ongoing food assistance.
What about Refugees?
For many displaced Syrians, the possibility of returning home seems increasingly remote. As a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with the federal government, the United Church has been sponsoring Syrian refugees for resettlement in Canada since 2013. In 2015, 202 congregations across the church joined with other groups in their communities to support the resettlement of Syrian refugees. In 2015, United Church groups sponsored 378 Syrian refugees. In early 2016, more refugee sponsorships are expected to be processed and more families will arrive.
United Church groups throughout Canada have raised over $3 million to sponsor Syrian refugees this year alone.
These figures are only part of the United Church story in relation to Syrian refugees. Many United Church groups are collaborating with other SAHs in their communities. It all adds up to a wholehearted and generous welcome from The United Church of Canada to thousands of Syrian refugees across the country.
More Helpful Information
Looking into sponsoring a refugee? See the recently updated Guidelines and Processes for Refugee Sponsorship.
Welcoming a refugee from another race or culture? After the initial excitement of a new welcome, the long-term work of relationship building across races and cultures becomes particularly important—and this can be hard work. Resources which may be helpful include:
- Racial Justice Training Workshop—offered throughout the year online.
- Deepening Understanding for Intercultural Ministry—offered in various locations across the country by the Canadian Churches’ Forum. United Church bursaries are available. E-mail cim [at] united-church.ca for more details.
For more information contact: