On Wednesday Oct. 28, 2015, the Toronto Star published an article by Debra Black updating the Project Hope initiative from the Archdiocese of Toronto. Fifty days into the campaign, the archdiocese has raised $1.7 million and 50 volunteer sponsorship committees — made up of individuals from a community group, church or corporation — have come forward to sponsor refugees. But another 50 volunteer committees are needed as well as another $1.3 million, said Martin Mark, director of the office for refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto, who recently returned from Jordan where he and a team of volunteers interviewed Syrian refugees for resettlement here.
The article mentions that 50 families have been matched and there is need for more groups to come forward. Mark stressed the archdiocese isn’t just looking to the Catholic community for support, saying other faith groups, corporations and community groups are welcome to join the effort.
Please read the entire article here.
There is also an article on this same topic in the Catholic Register dated Nov. 1, 2015. You can read this article here.
The Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) published their Pastoral Letter on October 26, 2015. In their four section letter they begin by explaining in the first section (Why We Are Writing) the rationale for the letter. They are direct in saying, “We believe that discussion is not enough; this is a time for urgent action”. The CCCB is indicating that the traditional definition of a “refugee” is no longer adequate. They declare, “We can now add a new category of climate or environmental refugees”.
In the second section entitled “Biblical Teaching” the Bishops remind us that Jesus himself was a refugee, “Even the child Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled the persecution of King Herod (Matthew 2.13-14)”. The key phrase is from the Gospel of St. Mathew – “I was a stranger and you
welcomed me” (Matthew 25.35).
The next section, “Welcoming and Protecting Refugees” reminds us clearly that what we as Church can do is not only limited to simply assisting and supporting the refugee as they progress through the process of selection, but must look to full inclusion that clearly respects differences. This section goes on to note the many issues in need of clarification. These include: accelerating procedures, emphasis on family reunification, asylum, appeal procedures and others.
The final section (The Church: Speaking and Acting on Behalf of Refugees) the challenge is clear, “Our faith calls us to let ourselves be moved – even disturbed – by our sisters and brothers who are refugees”. The Bishops note and congratulate the many parishes and other groups who have sponsored refugees over the years. In terms of the Government, the Bishops say, “It is imperative that this Catholic voice be heard by the Canadian government”. There are several practical ideas that are meant for all of us to undertake. These include: call on the federal government, praying for refugees in camps around the world, support Development and Peace and CNEWA, create local diocesan services, mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees, provide formation for pastors and pastoral workers and establish a pastoral ministry for migrants.
You can read the entire letter here.
In a letter to the country’s national political leaders, the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., Bishop of Hamilton and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, asks them to collaborate in better assisting refugees. “No matter which of you may be invited to form the next government and to serve as the next leader of the official opposition – to support efforts by the government and individual members of Parliament to ensure Canada effectively expands, accelerates and facilitates the private sponsorship of refugees. We particularly urge you to find more effective ways of reuniting refugee families, and to recognize the special urgency of the needs of children, single-parent families, and those minorities and individuals facing persecution.”
The Bishop also said that the Office for Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) is one of the nation’s largest refugee agencies. Staff from other Catholic dioceses and eparchies have formed a special organization, the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council. Both ORAT and the Sponsors’ Council are active in providing advice and information for groups wishing to initiate sponsorship or resettlement, or already involved in such efforts.
“On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Canada, I assure you that we will do all we can to cooperate with you, as well as with provincial and municipal governments, in assisting, sponsoring and resettling refugees from Syria, from throughout the Middle East, and from other areas of the world that are experiencing conflict or persecution. Furthermore, we will continue to collaborate in providing humanitarian assistance to the millions of others throughout the world who have been displaced because of famine, poverty or environmental disaster.”
You can read the entire letter here