I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

Matthew 25:35

The United Church of Canada extends its deepest condolences to those mourning the tragic deaths of Syrian refugees Aylan Kurdi (three years old), his brother Galip (five years old), and their mother, Reham. We pray also for the thousands of others from various countries who have also died or lost relatives as they risked their lives in search of safe haven on distant shores, including Canada. 

A long-time member of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), the United Church echoes the concerns raised in the CCR’s recent statement lamenting the circumstances that led to this particular tragedy, and appealing for Canada to respond more quickly and generously to the urgent needs of Syrians and other refugees already awaiting resettlement.

The rising death toll among refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, North Africa, and elsewhere reveals the increased desperation of people caught up in prolonged conflicts. The United Church is concerned that, due to Canadian government policies and practices that block or delay reunification, refugee families are frequently separated for prolonged periods of time or indefinitely. People who flee persecution and seek asylum in Canada are often prevented from bringing their spouse and/or children and often face very long processing times and delays. Once recognized as refugees in Canada, they can apply to bring their immediate family to Canada. However, sometimes they have to wait years to be reunited with their spouses and children, who themselves can be living in situations of danger and persecution. Furthermore, they can only apply to be reunited with family if they qualify to apply for permanent residency.

Mission & Service and ecumenical partners living and serving in conflict-affected regions remind the church of the biblical call to offer hospitality to strangers, sanctuary to the endangered, love for neighbours, and justice for the persecuted and oppressed.

Canadians once again have an opportunity to uphold the values of compassion and empathy toward those in urgent need. As people of faith, the church is called to respond in this time and place to the question: “And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?” (Matthew 25:38)

The United Church of Canada is among churches and community groups that are “sponsorship agreement holders.”

For more information about how you can assist refugees, please e-mail