The Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council was founded with the vision of providing a national Catholic voice to respond to the needs of the world’s refugees for resettlement. We intend to be a centre for coordination, advocacy and information for Catholic refugee sponsoring organizations. Canadian Catholic organizations are the largest sponsoring groups for refugees.
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Canadian Church Ready to Help Rohingya Refugees
Catholic parishes, ministries, religious orders and institutions stand ready to help should Ottawa heed Bob Rae’s advice on the Rohingya crisis. In an article published in the Catholic Register on April 10, 2018 Michael Swan outlines the background and the proposal for the Canadian Catholic Church to provide assistance.
A report prepared by Bob Rae, commissioned by Prime Minister Trudeau, outlines several ways the Canadian Government can help. His report is entitled “Tell Them We’re Human“. These include: engaging with the local Government, offer financial support, establish a working group to address the issues, investigate crimes, accept refugees from Bangladesh and from within Myanmar.
The Office for Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) is quite willing to help in any way. “Our parishes have an overwhelmingly good will that they’ve exhibited towards assisting refugees”, Deacon Rudy, the Director said. “I don’t think this would differ with regards to supporting the Rohingya refugees.”
Stephane Vinhas from Development and Peace indicated that they are ready to help. The Canadian Jesuits International have set up a community college and are working toward establishing the Myanmar Leadership Institute, training people to be ready for real democracy when it comes. The Jesuit Refugee Service, also supported by Canadian Jesuits International, has just received permission for the next three months to work with Caritas Bangladesh.
Please read the entire article here: Rohingya
You can also find it here: Canadian Church to Help Rohingya April 2018
CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD
The resurrection of Christ is the crowning truth of our faith. The Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC) wishes all the best for you and your families and loved ones at this very special time.
May the good news of Easter fill your hearts with joy!
Blessed Easter to all of you from all of us at CRSC!
Pope Francis: “Catholics – Dialogue with Government”
Liberating the poor, the oppressed and the persecuted is an integral part of what God wants his church to do, Pope Francis said. This is the message from Pope Francis as reported by Cindy Wooden in the March 8 edition of the Catholic Register.
Catholics must promote dialogue with government leaders, “a dialogue that takes into account people’s actual experiences, sufferings and aspirations, in order to remind everyone once more of his or her responsibilities” said Pope Francis. He was addressing participants in the plenary council of the International Catholic Migration Commission, which was meeting in Rome.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’ top collaborator, said the Catholic Church and Catholic agencies that work with migrants and refugees around the world are called to educate, advocate and seek alternative host countries in the face of a growing “refusal to welcome” newcomers. He decried how “the most economically advanced” nations, especially those who “undeniably owe a great deal of their development to migrants,” are now trying to close their borders.
Michele Klein Solomon, director of the Global Compact for Migration of the U.N. International Organization for Migration, said the “single greatest challenge” facing those who assist migrants is “the demonization of migrants and refugees, and this discourse that is so damaging: blaming individuals, labeling individuals as criminals, as threats, as terrorists, as coming to society to try to take social services, to take jobs.”
“It is not enough to complain; we have to appeal to other states to do more” said Walter Brill, International Catholic Migration Commission organization’s director of operations.
You can read the entire article here: Dialogue with Gov’t March 2018
The full article is also available from the Catholic Register: Pope Urges Dialogue
Counteract ‘refusal to welcome‘ Migrants
Catholic News Service published an article by Cindy Wooden in the March 6, 2018 edition of the Catholic Register. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’ top collaborator, decried how “the most economically advanced” nations, especially those who “undeniably owe a great deal of their development to migrants,” are now trying to close their borders. The cardinal urged Catholic agencies and bishops’ conferences to provide fact-based information that will help “dispel many unfounded prejudices and fears regarding the reception of foreigners. These remarks took place at the annual International Catholic Migration Commission meeting in March in Rome.
Carol Batchelor, director of the Division of International Protection for the U.N. refugee agency, told the conference there are 66 million refugees or forcibly displaced persons in the world today – “the highest number ever” – and that a refugee child’s average wait for resettlement is now 17 years, “their entire childhood.”
Michele Klein Solomon, director of the Global Compact for Migration of the U.N. International Organization for Migration, said the “single greatest challenge” facing those who assist migrants is “the demonization of migrants and refugees, and this discourse that is so damaging.
From October through the end of February, the commission managed to resettle only about 100 people. It is not enough to complain; we have to appeal to other states to do more.
You can read the article in its entirety here: Catholics Must Counteract March 6, 2018
This is also available from the Catholic Register: Catholics Must Counteract
About 45,000 privately sponsored refugees backlogged
A Backlog of about 45,000 refugees is a worry for the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) in Canada. The Catholic Register published an article by Michael Swan dated February 23, 2018 entitled “About 45,000 privately sponsored refugees backlogged”. Deacon Rudy Ovcjak of the Office for Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) reported that there is a backlog in the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR).
Refugees in Iraq and Lebanon who have Church sponsors can be in Canada in 15 to 18 months. Those in Ethiopia it is 68 months and from India it is seven years.
Erin Pease Director of the Hamilton Diocese Office of Refugees says that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have not been adequately resourced. Further, she says that “while PSR arrivals are set to increase in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the arrival targets are not sufficiently high to reduce the PSR inventory to a reasonable size that can be managed within a reasonable timeframe — seemingly established by IRCC to be a 12-month term — unless significant human resource changes are made at key IRCC missions overseas.”
Paulette Johnson, the sponsorship coordinator in Edmonton believes the Government is making progress and will meet its target by 2020.
In total, Sponsorship Agreement Holders across Canada were allowed to submit 7,500 new cases last year. This year they will be allowed 8,000 new applications.
You can read the entire article at this link: Refugees Backlogged
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World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018
“Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees”
The theme for the 104th annual World Day of Migrants & Refugees was “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees” as announced by Pope Francis. Many dioceses across Canada engaged in events to especially mark this important day.
In Vancouver British Columbia, Archbishop J. Michael Miller C.S.B. celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Parish where many people from various backgrounds attended. Many of the prayers for the Mass were offered in various languages. Following Mass there was a cultural celebration with newly arrived participants from various cultures performing. Food from various parts of the world was also served.
In Hamilton Ontario, Bishop Crosby celebrated a Multicultural Mass on January 21, 2018 at the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King. Music for the Mass was provided by a variety of cultures and languages. Newcomers sponsored to Canada under the Private Sponsorship for Refugees Program as well as the Blended Visa Office Referred program were among those who gathered for the event! Please see the pictures and description here: Multicultural Mass
In Windsor Ontario, the Asmaro Chaldean Society held a Mass on December 28 for newcomers and their families.
In Toronto Ontario, Bishop Bawai Soro of the Chaldean Eparchy celebrated Mass and Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick delivered the homily. The Mass took place at the Good Shepherd Chaldean Cathedral on January 14, 2018. A reception with food and remarks from former refugees followed the Mass.
Prayer for Migrants
God the Father, source of life and love, we are all your children; with your providential care guide the path of all migrant people.
God the Son, obedient to the will of the Father, You have called us to a holy life; may migrant people hold on to their faith in You especially in moments of difficulties.
God the Holy Spirit, fountain of all gifts, may migrant people open their hearts to You so that they may be inspired to hold on to their hope.
Through the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we all at the end of our earthly journey be reunited in the place her Son has prepared for us.
Please read the entire document from Pope Francis here: World Day of Migrants & Refugees 2018
You may also watch the Pope as he celebrates Mass in Rome on Sunday January 14 – World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Holy Mass
PEACE BE WITH YOU – CHRISTMAS 2017
PEACE BE WITH YOU
This is the greeting we hear so often at Mass and many other liturgical celebrations.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; John 14, 27
Pope Francis, in his message this Christmas 2017 prayed of peace: peace to those suffering in wars and conflict, those suffering especially children. He prayed for real peace.
CRSC echoes this sentiment. May God who became a child inspire all of us to work for peace, unity and accord.
We wish you and all your loved ones that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds” Philippians 4:6-7
St. NICHOLAS – PATRON OF SPONSORS!
St. Nicholas, the first Santa Claus, is or could/should be the patron saint of all sponsors of refugees. The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church. There are many accounts of St. Nicholas helping the poor and especially the children. These stories help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
Those who sponsor refugees are just like St. Nicholas. They go out of their way to provide the basic necessities to refugees – food, shelter, clothing and love. It is time we honour and be thankful to all the sponsors of refugees. Their dedication, time and talents have helped thousands of refugees to enjoy a better life.
Watch this short video about St. Nicholas: St. Nicholas Documentary
Here is a short prayer you can say to invoke the blessing of St. Nicholas:
Saint Nicholas, glorious Confessor of Christ, assist us in your loving kindness.
HOSTING REFUGEES IN RELIGIOUS HOUSES
The Refugees and Migrants Working Group (RMWG) hosted the JPIC English Promoters Meeting last October 18. Twenty-eight congregations are currently hosting refugees in 30 of their houses. Since the beginning of the project (2014), 111 persons are on their own.
With Fr. Jude Nnorom, CSSP as facilitator, the session began with the prayer on the reality of migration. This was followed by the experiences shared by four resource persons who spoke of their community’s blessings, challenges, best practices and questions. They include Sr. Maria Josè Rosa of the Ursulines of the Roman Union, Fr. Nico Espinosa of the Society of the Divine Word, Fr. David Reid of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, and Sr. Carmen Elissa Bandeo of the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit.
- Assisting families and persons to be independent and to recover the dimension of intimacy and family.
- Refugees/migrants are helped to create new links of networks, contacts, acquaintances and opportunities.
- Responding to the call of the Church and to participate in her mission, refugee/migrants have helped us to develop sensitivity to their cultural and religious plurality.
- The language becomes a barrier for communication. Caution is necessary regarding boundary issues, while offering advice, feedback, providing accompaniment, and caring for their health.
- There is fear of suffering due to xenophobia and prejudices. Complex issues are related to money.
- Faced with new people and culture, there is an unconscious drive to save their identity, while integrating into their new local reality.
- Treating them like neighbors, friends and long term guests; celebrating their important days; keeping the balance between respect for their privacy and making our presence with them; assigning a member of the community as reference point for refugees; stating the boundaries clearly with due care for their employment and religious perspectives; informing them of expectations; respecting the desire to give back in small ways like sharing their meal.
- The project has to be regularly evaluated and updated.
- How to help the refugees take responsibility for their own life and to create a network amongst themselves to promote better conditions for their lives.
- How can we develop and make known the right of all to emigrate and immigrate, as stated in Catholic Social teaching (cf. Compendium of the Social doctrine of the church, no. 100, 289, 297, 298, 308, and 505).
- How do we balance the needs of the refugees/migrants and the local community? Sr. Maria Jose Rey Merodio, Coordinator of the Centro Astaili Program for Congregations in Rome, explained the Semi-Autonomy Project: Community of Hospitality, which facilitates the exit of refugees from the reception circuit, creating a bridge to accompany the passage from assisted reception to autonomy. The project allows the gradual involvement of the beneficiaries in the direct participation in their own sustenance and in the re-appropriation of the administration of everyday life. They help to create new links in the territory and insertion in the fabric of society. The project makes possible new forms of widespread reception.
Challenges for the Centro Astali Program include: finding a stable and regular working insertion, finding places to rent on a regular basis after the period of semi-autonomous reception, adhering to a straight-line path of integration, logistic and bureaucratic difficulties linked to being transferred—residence, school insertion of minors, being taken charge by the relevant social services, etc., accepting the conclusion of the reception period, cultural difficulties (saving money, maintenance of the spaces, etc.).
We are grateful that the RMWG will be developing a handbook to share their experiences with other persons interested in working with refugees and migrants.
Following are references to more information regarding refugees/migrants:
Contributed by S.Vincent Anesthasiar, CMF
CARDINAL PLEADS FOR AID TO PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS
On September 11, the Catholic Register published an article written by Michael Swan that dealt with the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
The occasion was an ecumenical prayer service for peace in the Middle East. Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, appealed directly to the Canadian government to pay special attention to Christian refugees as it distributes aid in the region and accepts refugees for resettlement.
In attendance at St. Michael’s Cathedral on Sept. 10th, were both clergy and lay people representing about a dozen Christian churches — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant.
The Cardinal spoke frankly and said, “Justice and human decency requires … that all of us, and especially our Canadian government, by word and deed, offer practical assistance to those who are persecuted and who seek refuge here — and obviously, especially, to those who are the most persecuted and the most vulnerable.”
In his remarks, Collins spoke of remembering the victims of violence, terror and persecution around the world, and especially our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
What are we to do? the Cardinal asks. He offers several suggestions. These include:
- That every human effort be made by governments and all of us to do whatever can be done on a human level to protect those who are being persecuted. Support the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association (CNEWA).
- Our Canadian government, by word and deed, offer practical assistance to those who are persecuted and who seek refuge here, to those who are the most persecuted and the most vulnerable.
- Do what we can to raise awareness in our secular society,
In his conclusion the Cardinal reminds us of the prayer at Mass – “we pray, that to your faithful who suffer for your name’s sake a spirit of patience and charity, they may be found true and faithful witnesses to the promises you have made.”
Please read the entire article at the Catholic Register website: Cardinal Collins Pleads for Aid
You can also find the article here on the CRSC website: Cardinal Collins pleads for aid to Christian refugees
Your comments are welcome. Please send us an email and react to this posting: firstname.lastname@example.org
JOURNEY TO JUSTICE
On August 2nd 2017, the Prairie Messenger posted an article written by Joe Gunn, Director of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). In the article he discusses various activities of the Churches in Canada. He mentions the history of the involvement of faith-based groups in settling refugees in Canada. Catholics mobilized to welcome refugees who arrived in special movements from Hungary in the 1950s, Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, and even Uganda in the 1970s. He also writes about the Canadian Council of Churches joining Amnesty International and the Canadian Council for Refugees in a court challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), a deal which endangers the lives of asylum-seekers.
Another interesting historic note is that in March 1979, the Mennonites signed the first Master Agreement with Ottawa to facilitate the private sponsorship of refugees.
He finally calls on the faith groups to go beyond the hard work of receiving and settling newcomers, our faith communities must continue to advocate for improved governmental policies related to refugees. Wait times are still too long, stretching over six years for sponsorship applications from some parts of Africa.
You can read the full article here: Journey to justice Aug. 2017
You can also find the article on the website of the Prairie Messenger
Advocates worry new agreement will hurt private sponsorship refugee program
In an article by Michael Swan of the Catholic Register published on June 22, 2017, Dr. Martin Mark expresses concern that the draft five-year agreements between the federal government and the agencies who sponsor refugees threaten to make private sponsorship of refugees more like government sponsorship. The result may be a draining of the bank accounts of private sponsors.
A Government IRCC spokesman Rémi Lariviére indicated that the Government is not trying to take over the private sponsorship program or make it more like the government’s sponsorship program.
Dr. Mark believes that by paying refugees to stay home and take a few hours of language classes per day ignores the success private sponsors have had in getting refugees employed and self-sufficient quickly.
Mr. Lariviére has said that a large part of the difference is explained by which refugees are privately sponsored versus government sponsored.
In recent statements, Cardinal Thomas Collins has indicated private sponsors should be the voice of the voiceless in the refugee camps. Referrals from the United Nations are accepted regularly in Toronto.
Please read the entire article from the Register here: Advocates Worry
You can also read it here on the CRSC site: Advocates worry new agreement will hurt private sponsorship refugee program June 22, 2017
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Every minute 24 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. The UNHCR has proclaimed June 20 as “World Refugee Day”. UN Secretary-General, António Guterre says “On World Refugee Day, held every year on June 20th, we commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.”
A Prayer for Refugees:
Almighty and merciful God, whose Son became a refugee and had no place to call his own; look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger, homeless and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief; inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts; and guide the nations of the world towards that day when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Please visit this link for further information: World Refugee Day
Immigration minister – faster processing times for refugees
The Catholic Register had an article by Michael Swan in the April 27 edition of the paper. It presented a response from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to the issues raised by many groups in Canada with respect to slow processing times for refugees wishing to come to Canada. Hussen claims the problems are an overhang from the previous Conservative government and that processing times will shrink to less than 12 months.
The government has committed to bring in 25,000 government-sponsored refugees and another 16,000 privately-sponsored. The majority of the privately-sponsored are brought in by faith groups, with various Catholic agencies sponsoring the most.
The concern is that a two-tier refugee system has been created in Canada, where Syrians get prompt processing and refugees from other parts of the world languish. “That couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Hussen.
Increased numbers of refugees making asylum claims inside Canada — including a wave coming across the American border out of sight of official border crossings — have no bearing on the government’s refugee policies or levels plan, Hussen said.
You can read the entire article here: Immigration minister vows faster processing times for refugees April 2017
It is also available on the Catholic Register site: Faster Processing Times
Refugee sponsors put on hold by quota
The Catholic Register published an article on May 4, 2017 by Michael Swan reporting that the Office for Refugees for the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) has been forced to suspend all new applications to sponsor refugees for the rest of this year due to persistent backlogs in government processing.
Director Dr. Martin Mark is quoted as saying, “People are very frustrated, we are very disappointed. This is not a good situation.”
This situation has affected all of Canada. For example, the refugee office in the Diocese of London received a 2017 quota of 157, but has 401 applications in process. London will have to decide which 244 applications can wait until 2018.
The Mennonite Central Committee of Canada national migration and resettlement program co-ordinator Brian Dyck said, “These limits have certainly built up a shadow backlog of cases that are not on any government database but are in our minds and hearts. It is difficult to know how to unburden our hearts of this backlog.”
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen plans to bring the applications and landings back into balance and cut the time between an application submitted and a refugee arriving down below 12 months in 2019.
You can read the entire article from the Catholic Register here: Sponsors Put On Hold
The article is also to be found here: Refugee sponsors put on hold by quota May 2017
You can read what others are saying about this issues here: Backlog, Wait Times
HE IS RISEN – ALLELUIA!
We at the CRSC wish every grace and blessing of Easter to all. The words of Pope Francis ring true to us: “The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6).”
We especially pray for all the newcomers to Canada, wishing them all the blessings of the risen Lord. The admonition of Pope Francis is very poignant: “Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith.”
South Sudan Refugees Look to the Pope for Hope
The Prairie Messenger, in the March 15, 2017 edition published an article written by Michael Swan discussing the situation in South Sudan. It seems that Pope Francis would like to visit South Sudan with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Luciano Moro, from the Office for Refugees in the Archdiocese of Toronto, a refugee from South Sudan, hopes that this visit would inspire a national reconciliation process. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are 7.5 million Sudanese requiring some help and protection. The South Sudan’s Catholic Bishops have been working with others to try to develop an “Action Plan for Peace”. This is risky because the Church will then become a target.
Please reads the full article here in the Prairie Messenger: South Sudan
You may also read the editorial on this subject in the Catholic Register: South Sudan Crying
Pope Francis – to the International Forum on Migration and Peace
Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action
In his address to the conference on February 21, Pope Francis announced the establishment of a Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with a Section concerned exclusively for migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking. He indicated that our response should be characterized by the following four action words: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.
To Welcome: For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organisations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels.
To Protect: Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted.
To Promote: efforts must be encouraged that lead to the implementation of programmes of international cooperation, free from partisan interests, and programmes of transnational development which involve migrants as active protagonists.
To Integrate: for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of persons of various cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its catholicity, since unity, which does not nullify ethnic and cultural diversity, constitutes a part of the life of the Church, who in the Spirit of Pentecost is open to all and desires to embrace all.
The Pope then went on the elaborate on duties that flow from these four actions:
Duty of Justice: One group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources. We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs.
Duty of Civility: Today more than ever, it is necessary to affirm the centrality of the human person, without allowing immediate and ancillary circumstances, or even the necessary fulfillment of bureaucratic and administrative requirements, to obscure this essential dignity.
Duty of Solidarity: Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs. Upon this, in short, is based the sacred value of hospitality, present in religious traditions.
In conclusion he reiterates what he said for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “we need to work towards protection, integration and long-term solutions”.
Please read the entire presentation here: Integration & Development
Sixth Annual Mass Celebrates Migrants and Refugees
The B.C. Catholic newspaper published a “Good News” story from the Diocese of Vancouver as they celebrated the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on January 15, 2017. Pope Francis issued a statement for this occasion in the universal Church with the theme “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless“.
The article by Josh Tng described the event complete with music, international dress, and food from around the world. There were 900 immigrants, refugees, and temporary workers, along with friends and family who celebrated the 103rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees at St. Matthew’s Church.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, in his homily at the Mass said, “All of us are immigrants, refugees, or descendants of such”. He also thanked those who sponsored refugees, both as individuals and through their parishes.
After Mass, the crowd gathered in the school gymnasium, where food representing their various cultures was laid around the table and shared. Attendees representing nationalities including Indonesia, Poland, Latin America and Africa performed traditional dances and songs for entertainment.
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees Mass is a “great opportunity to come together, to worship together,” said the Service and Justice office’s Evelyn Vollet. The office worked hard to invite refugees to attend the Mass “because we wanted to celebrate the solidarity this Mass is about,” she said.
Please read the entire article here: Sixth Annual Mass
The story of Christ’s birth as described in St. Luke’s gospel Chapter 2 is filled with thoughts for our reflection at this most important time of the year. “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn”. The angels announce to the shepherds, “I bring you news of great joy to be shared by the whole people”. After the shepherds came to visit Jesus St. Luke says “They went back glorifying and praising God”. The shepherds are the first evangelists.
These three short passages inspire us – we all come to this earth vulnerable and yet very precious to God. The joy of this birth is to be shared, and we are called to be the new shepherds, the new evangelists. We respond to Gods love by praising and glorifying Him.
From all of us here at CRSC, we hope and pray for God blessing and peace at this time.
“Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of good will”.
Canadian help for Yazidis must take other refugees into account
The Catholic Register, on October 28, 2016 published an article written by Deborah Gyapong, which points out that the Government needs to attend to other refugees elsewhere in the world. The Government supported the Conservative motion to recognize ISIS’ genocide against Yazidis and to provide asylum for Yazidi women and girls within 120 days. While many are supporting this initiative, there are advocates who have some questions.
Some refugee advocates worry about fast-tracking yet another group, when problems created by bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees in a short time-frame have not been addressed. In addition there are several groups whose cases have yet to be quickly addressed. For example many African refugees face processing times of over 70 months. Carl Hétu, national director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) said the government decision is a good one, but more needs to be done. His organization and the Catholic Church in Canada have highlighted concerns about Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities who were displaced inside Iraq when ISIS invaded Mosul and the Nineveh Plain in 2014.
Meanwhile, a coalition of forces is trying to retake Mosul from ISIS, and Hétu fears the battle—if it lasts a few more months— could create another 1.2 million misplaced persons.
You can read the full article here: Yazidis
CCCB LETTER TO JOHN McCALLUM MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES AND CITIZENSHIP
On October 6, 2016 Most Rev. Douglas Crosby, O.M.I. President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) sent a letter to the Honourable John McCallum Minister or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Bishop Crosby began by congratulating the Canadian Government for its dealing with the refugee crisis in Syria over the last year.
The letter goes on to point out some of the “growing pains” that have emerged recently. One issue is the long wait times for sponsoring groups from the application process to arrival of the refugee. This has meant that groups are spending money and making commitments with no assurance that the refugees will arrive. There is a call on the Government to process the cases as “quickly as possible”. The result of this delay, the Bishop says, may result in groups losing interest in this effort and may develop a negative perception of the promises of the Government.
The processing office in Winnipeg was also mentioned. They are no longer expediting Syrian refugee claims. The point is also made that “in the spirit of fairness and non-discrimination” processing of all refugees must be a top concern. Finally, the goals of being more clear and transparent in the refugee claims process are ones that the CCCB is looking forward to seeing.
Please read the full letter here: Minister McCallum
The Toronto Star newspaper also published an article on this letter. You can read it here: Delays
Your response is welcome as always: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joint Ecumenical Letter – United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has co-authored a letter to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) dated October 4, 2016. The letter is addressed to the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, PC, MP Minister for International Development and La Francophonie. In this letter, signed by the Most Rev. Douglas Crosby, OMI Bishop of Hamilton and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as representatives of the Anglican, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, United Church and Quakers.
The letter urges Canada to restore its annual contribution in support of the work of the UNRWA, and to increase its contribution significantly. People in the Middle East suffer from vulnerability and deepening poverty. The growing level of need far outpaces the financial support, most of which is through voluntary donations. The letter describes how there have been drastic cuts to UNRWA schools, hospitals and food assistance programs. It also notes that the healthcare, education and vocational training UNRWA provides is crucial for the well-being of women in Palestinian society.
Finally, the letter urges the government to act quickly and decisively to restore Canada’s urgently needed contribution to UNRWA.
Please read the full letter here: UNRWA
The Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC) has teamed up with the Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice (CACSJ) to focus on the situation of refugees and migrants and the United Nations. On September 19, 2016 the UN hosted the High-Level Plenary Meeting to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants at the UN headquarters in New York. The CRSC followed this one day conference very closely along with the CACSJ. The Augustinians (Augustinians International) have been represented at the United Nations for several years. They began as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and now have Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) status.
You can read the entire report from the CRSC and the CACSJ here: Summit Report
The following are some highlights from the summit in New York.
Participants at this meeting came from most member states of the United Nations. There were opening remarks, round table discussions, and other side events during the day. Canada was represented by Stephane Dion Minister of Foreign Affairs and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. The United States was represented by John Kerry, Secretary of State and Barach Obama, President.
The New York Declaration
The discussion at the summit resulted in all members agreeing to the “New York Declaration”. Some of the main commitments include:
- Protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status. This includes the rights of women and girls and promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in finding solutions.
- Ensure that all refugee and migrant children are receiving education within a few months of arrival.
- Work towards ending the practice of detaining children for the purposes of determining their migration status.
- Implement a comprehensive refugee response, based on a new framework that sets out the responsibility of Member States, civil society partners and the UN system, whenever there is a large movement of refugees or a protracted refugee situation.
- Start negotiations leading to an international conference and the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018.
- Achieve a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees by adopting a global compact on refugees in 2018.
You can read the entire New York Declaration here: New York Declaration
United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon opened the session. He spoke of migrants and refugees not to be seen as a burden but a great potential. He pledged that with cooperation no refugee or migrant will be left behind. He outlined some of the initiatives and agreements in the declaration.
You can watch the video of Ban Ki-moon at this link: Ban Ki-moon Opening Remarks
There were six round tables which focused on various topics. Some of the presenters included the Holy See, Prime Minister Trudeau and others.
Deputy Secretary-General of the UN Jan Eliasson from Sweden offered some closing remarks to the high level meeting. He indicated that this issue is one of the most challenging of our time.
For further information please choose this link: UN Summit
USCCB – REFUGEES & MIGRANTS
Since July 2016, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has spoken out about the refugee crisis with reports and press releases. Three publications will be highlighted here.
Moment of Decision: Seeking Durable Solutions in Southeast Asia, July 2016
In July and August 2016, a delegation from Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops travelled to Southeast Asia to show the U.S. Catholic bishops’ solidarity with refugees and other populations of concern in those countries and with the local Catholic bishops and with Catholic and other faith-based and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) responding to their needs. The delegation assessed the protracted humanitarian crisis of Burma/Myanmar at this critical moment in its history, including the plight of certain internally displaced people (IDPs). In Thailand, the delegation, led by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chair of the Committee on Migration of USCCB, and including staff from USCCB/MRS, visited a Bangkok detention center that held many
Many recommendations flowed from this report and visit.
- To the Catholic Church – Provide generous funding and resources through the Catholic Church and her NGOs to contribute to the above efforts, particularly to strengthen the role of the local Catholic Church of Indonesia
- To Australia – Reconsider your interdiction policies and more fully share the responsibility for welcoming and protecting refugees and asylum seekers in the region
- To the United States – Work closely with Australia and Southeast Asian countries to support Myanmar’s new government and neighboring refugee host nations to resolve the protracted refugee and IDP crisis
Please read the full report here: Moment of Decision
We Must Overcome Partisan Divides on Migration Issues, September 14, 2016
This statement was issued just prior to the UN Summit on Refugees held in New York on September 19, 2016. In this statement Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration, reiterated the long-standing teachings on migration, which are rooted in the Gospel message of welcome and grounded in Catholic social teaching. He reminded us of Pope Francis’ call on all Americans to “seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”
Bishop Elizondo emphasized that it is not enough that we welcome the migrants into our communities. The political and religious leaders of this great nation must work with the leaders of other countries to help create the conditions so people do not feel compelled to migrate in the first place.He concludes by saying, we must seek a world in which everyone has access to the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in freedom and dignity, and to achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts.
Please read the full statement here: Overcome Partisan Divides
USCCB Migration and Refugee Services Releases Refugee Report Ahead of U.N. Refugee Summit, September 19, 2016
This report is a summary of the July 2016 report from the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services. The statement focuses on Burma /Myanmar’s decades-long refugee crisis which prompted a trip to the region also including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, who led the delegation said, “This trip was eye-opening for me. I join my brother bishops in the Burma region and elsewhere to pray for peace and continued reform and rebuilding in the country. I pray for continued protection, humanitarian assistance, and pursuit of durable solutions for all those who are displaced.”
Some of the findings include:
- A special focus is needed on the Rohingya refugees challenge
- There is a disturbing pattern of human trafficking of refugees and migrant workers throughout the region
- Those seeking refuge in temporary shelters in Thailand continue to experience a reduction in humanitarian support, including reduced food rations.
- Increased numbers of Pakistani Christians seeking refuge in Thailand and Malaysia
Please read the full statement here: Refugee Services Report
Where are the Refugees?
The Catholic Register, in their September 17, 2016 article by Michael Swan, outlines some of the frustrations that many sponsors are feeling by the delays in processing of refugees. Project Hope, in the Archdiocese of Toronto for example, and their sponsorship groups have been able to greet just 44 refugee families, 133 individuals, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. That leaves 110 Project Hope sponsorship cases, representing 274 individuals, still waiting for their ticket to Canada. One parish sponsoring group was waiting so long that the family decided to go to Australia instead.
“We also must reiterate our message to the government to expedite the arrival of those who have been left behind not only in the Middle East but in so many other areas of conflict. We believe much more can and should be done,” Cardinal Collins said. Another example is the case of a group waiting and six months into the process, on Feb. 8, 2016 a helpful Citizenship and Immigration employee was able to write send an e-mail reporting her department was then “working on files from August/September 2015.”
Immigration expects 6,000 more government-assisted and blended visa Syrian refugees to arrive between mid-September and the end of December, plus an unspecified number of privately sponsored refugees whose cases have already been finalized. The Syrian fast track has come to an end, according to Immigration officials. Canadian policy that favours Syrians and ignores Iraq has caused many groups to be angry with the system.
Please read the entire article here: Sponsors Frustration
You can read the article in the Catholic Register here: Where are the Refugees?
Getting Syrians here was easy. Now comes the hard part.
Maclean’s Magazine, on August 9, 2016 published an article written by Michael Friscolanti in which he details and describes the process of refugees from Syrian hearing the news that they will be brought to Canada and how happy they are to be here. In the article he reports on an interview he had with Rabea Allos from the CRSC. Mr. Friscolanti poses the inevitable questions about this whole process. These include: “Now that they’re here, will all of them thrive? Are we doing enough to ensure their long-term integration? And if not, what are the consequences years down the road”?
He reports that many Canadians do not feel there are enough resources in place to ensure a smooth transition to Canada – these include; food banks, language classes, housing, job training and mental health services etc.The Senate Standing Committee recommended that the Government boost funding for language classes and mental health services.
The article mentions the fact that refugee stakeholders are bracing for one event: “month 13.” Whether privately sponsored or government-assisted, Syrian refugees receive one year of financial support; after that, they are expected to support themselves—or apply for welfare. No one knows for sure how many will end up on welfare. Canada boasts a well-respected suite of settlement agencies and service providers that assist tens of thousands of newcomers every year. But never have so many refugees arrived so quickly, creating inevitable clogs.
“If you look at language as a unifier and one of the chief roadblocks to obtaining employment—which is a big integration factor — this is a big concern,” says Michelle Rempel, the Conservative immigration critic who sits on the House committee. “Some will do better than others,” says Carolyn Davis, executive director of Catholic Crosscultural Services, a settlement agency that also provides training courses for private sponsors.
“One refugee that fails resettlement is not acceptable, because it means we as a society failed to make sure those people integrated,” says Rabea Allos, director of the Catholic Refugee Sponsors Council, an umbrella organization for private sponsorship groups. “You don’t want, a year or two down the road, for Canadians to become upset with the refugee program and believe that some people are abusing the system. They will say: ‘You know what? Let’s stop getting refugees in.’ This is the concern. We want the program to work so Canadians will continue this compassion toward bringing more refugees.”
You can read the full article in Maclean’s Magazine at this link: Getting Syrians Here Was Easy
You can also find the article on our website at this link: Syrian Refugees – the Hard Part
Your comments are most welcome: email@example.com
Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Committee (CRSC) Presents at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration – July, 2016
Rabea Allos, an executive member of the CRSC spoke for a second time at the July committee meeting in Ottawa. Two topics were presented. One is the distinction between refugees and vulnerable people and groups. The distinction is between “protection needs” and “resettlement needs”. The goal is the protection of all refugees locally until a durable solution is available. The option for resettlement in destination countries is usually preserved to the most vulnerable who cannot be repatriated to their homeland nor locally integrated in the host country; simply because they cannot go back to their normal life in the home countries.
The second topic is that of indigenous people. A United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007.
Canada officially adopted and promised to implement the declaration fully in January 2016. Minister Carolyn Bennett announced, “We are now a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification. We intend nothing less than to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.” This support does not apply to the indigenous people of Canada only; Canada is now committed to indigenous people worldwide. The goal of the Declaration is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous peoples to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization.
The CRSC encouraged the Canadian government, as well as other governments, to give special attention to the ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, in particular Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, Mandeans and Yezidis because they are the indigenous peoples of the land. Without this protection and resettlement those communities will disappear forever.
Please read the entire presentation – Refugees/Vulnerable Groups & Indigenous People
Your comments are encouraged: firstname.lastname@example.org
Church joins U.K. project to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees
The Catholic Church in England and Wales has joined a government project to resettle an estimated 20,000 refugees from the Syrian war. This was reported by the Catholic News Service on July 21, 2016 written by Simon Caldwell. The refugees will be drawn from predominantly Muslim camps and all the refugees would be rigorously screened by the British government and the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the bishops’ conference referred to the pope who called on our generosity and solidarity to recognize and act upon our common humanity. “Now we are all able to take up that call with the launch of the community sponsorship scheme for Syrian refugees.” The first families of refugees to be resettled by the church will arrive at St. Monica’s Parish in Flixton, outside of Manchester, in late summer. It is hoped that through this pilot scheme other parishes and groups can be encouraged and inspired so that the terrible suffering of many Syrian families can be alleviated.
They will also be assisted in adapting to British life and culture by their sponsors, which include local community groups, businesses and universities as well as faith groups.
Please read the entire article here: Church Joins UK Project
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WILL YOU STAND WITH REFUGEES?
The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has developed a petition online to ask people to support refugees. Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility. The #WithRefugees petition will be delivered to UN headquarters in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, on September 19.
The petition asks the governments to: ensure the education of every refugee child, ensure safe housing for fall refugee families, ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.
Please sign the petition now at this link: #WithRefugees petition
CANADA DAY JULY 1, 2016 – ST. JOSEPH PATRON ST. OF CANADA
In 1624, the Franciscan Recollect friar Fr. Joseph Le Caron held a great feast and made a vow to name St. Joseph as the Patron Saint of Canada. St. Joseph’s feast is March 19, but Canada Day on July 1st is also a day to remember our Patron Saint. St. Joseph has always been remembered and revered as a ‘father” who cared deeply for Jesus, the Holy Family and therefore for us. Canada has welcomed refugees and migrants in great numbers in recent years. Let us give thanks to St. Joseph for being our inspiration, and hope we can imitate him in care for all people.
Let us ask St. Joseph to be our guide and protector through all the trials and tribulations of life, especially to protect refugees and all migrants in their struggles.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
World Day of Migrants to reflect on vulnerable, voiceless minors
Catholic News Service, June 22, 2016 has reported that the theme for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees for January 15, 2017 will focus on vulnerable and voiceless minors. The statement also noted that the refugee issue is a global one and not limited to any one area. The fact is that children are the most at risk and are unable to make their voices heard. What follows are grave human rights abuses. The truth is that all refugees and all people should enjoy full recognition of their rights.
You can read the press release here: World Day of Migrants 2017
Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Committee (CRSC) Presents at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration
Rabea Allos, an executive member of the CRSC spoke at the May 30 committee meeting in Ottawa. The Chair of the committee is Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj. Those providing presentations at the meeting included the Honourable Mr. Peter Kent, as an individual and Mr. Rabea Allos from the CRSC. Members of the Committee included: Mrs. Salma Zahid (Scarborough Centre, Liberal), Mr. Arif Virani (Parkdale—High Park, Liberal), Hon. Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, Conservative Party of Canada), Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP), Mr. Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, Liberal), Mr. Bob Saroya (Markham—Unionville, Conservative Party of Canada), Mr. Randeep Sarai (Surrey Centre, Liberal), Mr. Brad Trost (Saskatoon—University, Conservative Party of Canada). The witnesses included: Mrs. Judy Villeneuve (Councillor, Surrey City Council, City of Surrey), Ms. Chantal Desloges (Lawyer, Desloges Law Group, As an Individual), Mr. Marwan Tabbara (Kitchener South—Hespeler, Liberal), Mr. Shaun Chen (Scarborough North, Liberal), Ms. Aileen Murphy (Senior Social Planner, City of Surrey.
In his presentation Rabea highlighted several key points. First he gave a broad overview of the CRSC, its goals objectives and vision. Then he made the following points:
- Refugee Protection, Repatriation & Resettlement
He highlighted the distinction between “protection need” and “resettlement need”. The first goal for the international community is protection of refugees locally until a durable solution is available. Resettlement of refugees is the most important part of solving refugee crisis, this resettlement should ensure that the refugee is integrated into the society and gains financial independence as early as possible. The CRSC recommends that the program name is changed from Private Sponsorship Program to Civic Resettlement Program.
- Government Assisted Refugees (GAR) and the Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSR).
The GARs are usually selected by the UNHCR. The CRSC encourages the government to look into other options for referral agencies, such as sponsoring Canadian missions to troubled countries for the selection of refugees among the most vulnerable. The PSR program has several advantages over the GAR program. These include: extended family unification, mission trips to select the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, more economical and less of a financial burden on Tax Payers, refugees are integrated and embraced by the society and hence less likely to be a financial burden or radicalized, and bridges can be built to fight against racism, prejudice and xenophobia.
Please read the entire presentation here: Rabea Allos’ Presentation
You can also read the unedited version of the entire committee meeting: Standing Committee Meeting May 30, 2016
Your comments are welcome: Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council
Refugee family finally arrives in Montreal: St. Ignatius Parish
On April 26, 2016 the The four-member Beirouty family arrived at Trudeau International Airport via Istanbul. Until three years ago, the Beirouty family had lived in Aleppo, but when a bomb exploded outside their apartment building, they were forced to leave, seeking refuge in a nearby town. There are four members of the family, husband and wife and 2 adolescent children. St. Ignatius, the English language parish in the Diocese of Montreal had to scramble to make all the preparations for the family when they arrived. Since February the parish had been waiting for notice of the family’s arrival. St. Ignatius decided last September to sponsor a refugee family after Archbishop Christian Lépine issued an appeal to all parishes.
Other parishes are also are involved in sponsoring refugees. To date, 23 Montreal parishes are involved in welcoming refugees.
Please read the full article from the Montreal Diocese website: Refugee family finally arrives
You can also find it here: Beirouty Family
Your comments and feedback are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominican Nuns Keep Hope Alive in Northern Iraq
On April 20, 2016, the Crux magazine published an article by Paul Jeffrey. He describes the mission of the Dominican nuns in Iraq.
When the Islamic State group rolled across Iraq’s Ninevah Plain in 2014, tens of thousands of Christians fled for their lives to Kurdish controlled areas of the country. They still wait in limbo, in crowded camps, facing an undefined future. The only certainty they enjoy is knowing whatever happens to them, a group of Dominican nuns will be there.
This Dominican congregation was founded in the late 19th century in Mosul. After the USA invasion of 2003, many of their facilities became refuges for the many displaced people affected by the conflict. In 2014 they were driven out of Mosul and went to Irbil. Tens of thousands of people ended up in Irbil, and so the Church stepped in to help. The people had nothing, but soon the nuns found diapers and milk which became blankets and food.
According to Michael Constantin from the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association (CNEWA), the Dominicans were of tremendous help. The sisters lived in very poor conditions and several of them died in the first few months in Irbil.
The sisters expanded their work by adding mobile services to outlying areas. They also began schools for the children in Arabic and Aramaic. The sisters visited the people in groups of 2 in order to just listen to the people and offer support. The sisters found great strength in their congregational discipline. The anger and resentment at the invasion of the USA is still in the minds of the people and the sisters are there to offer prayers and support.
Please read the entire article from the website: Crux, Dominican Nuns
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Hindu – Catholic Dialogue of Canada encourages hospitality and open hearts in receiving refugees in Canada
Following its last meeting in Toronto on February 6, 2016, the Hindu – Catholic Dialogue of Canada released a joint statement to reaffirm the importance of hospitality in receiving the stranger and welcoming refugee. The statement references quotations such as the following, “Be one for whom the guest is God.” Taittiriya Upanishad, as well as the gospel, “Just as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” The Gospel of Matthew.
The Hindu-Catholic Dialogue has been meeting regularly since 2011. The statement declares that it is no longer sufficient simply to tolerate one another, but to share in a deep, mutual understanding of one another’s traditions, devotions and spiritual insights.
The statement concludes with a challenge. We urge all Canadians to respond with openness, care and generosity to those refugees who find their ways to our shores, and indeed to all strangers in our midst.
Please visit the CCCB website for this important announcement. Hindu-Catholic Dialogue
You can also read the full statement: Hindu-Catholic Dialogue of Canada
Your comments are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
CCCB – Government of Canada closes its Office of Religious Freedom
On March 24, 2016 the CCCB published a document expressing “deep regret” that the Canadian Government was closing the “Office for Religious Freedom”. The statement goes on to declare the purpose of the office as an important signal to the international community and to Canadians of the singular importance of religious freedom, and of the unfortunate lack of voices in society prepared to come to its defense. The document also quotes Pope Francis when he stated clearly, “religious freedom is a fundamental human right which includes on the individual and collective levels the freedom to follow one’s conscience in religious matters and, at the same time, freedom of worship.” The statement goes on to recognize that the Ambassador for the office moreover recognized the perilous situation of the Christian minority in the Middle East which has been present in the region for two millennia.
Finally, the CCCB asks the Canadian Government to reconsider its decision and to provide a plan as to how it will defend the religious rights and freedoms which are human rights.
The entire statement is here: Canada closes its Office of Religious Freedom
You can also read it at the CCCB site: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Your comments are welcome: Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council
MINISTRY IN ALEPPO – KEEPING HOPE ALIVE
On February 28, 2016 Gaby Maniscalco, Catholic News Service had an article published in the Catholic Register about the Jesuit Refugee Service and the work of Fr. Sami Hallak in his crisis journal during his time in Aleppo, narrating daily life as he and hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents cope with the reality of a war that began in March 2011.
In one entry he speaks of a large water tank where the reserves are used with care. Unless it is designated for drinking, he said, the water is reused two or three times. If one takes a bath, he puts hot water in a bucket, and the bathing water is carefully collected in a vessel. The water is then used in the toilets, to wash clothes or to clean the floor.
Another priest in the area, Salesian Father Luciano Buratti, says, “Our community has chosen to continue our activities as if nothing has happened. We try to offer families a place where they can breathe stability and harmony even in the midst of chaos.”
Despite the volatile environment, people continue to look for signs of hope.
Please read the entire article Ministry in Aleppo
Your comments are welcome: CRSC
“ECUMENISM OF BLOOD” – CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS
On January 24, 2016 Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto celebrated an Ecumenical Service at the Good Shepherd Chaldean Church in Toronto. In his homily, the Cardinal stressed the importance of prayer is the foundation for ecumenical activity. The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of God”. He spoke of the many practical ways we as Christians can come together, but they are insufficient. He mentions that history teaches us that “Christian unity have also been forged in the fire of persecution, and in the common experience of the dark power of evil.”
He refers also to the Sermon on the Mount which proclaims “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In a reference to Pope Francis, the Cardinal uses the phrase “Ecumenism of blood”. He lists the tragedies and deaths of so many Christians not only in the Middle East but elsewhere as well.
In terms of what to do, he mentions several ideas. These include; prayer, live for Christ, be inspired by those who have suffered and died, keep the memory of those who have suffered alive forever, help the agencies and services working in these regions.
He concludes and prays that “All may be one”.
Please read the entire text of the homily here.
You can also see the video of Cardinal Collins’s homily. Just click here.
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DO NOT BE ROBBED of HOPE, JOY of LIVING: POPE TELLS REFUGEES
On January 19, 2016 the Catholic Register published an article by Junno Arocho Esteves reporting what the Pope said to refugees for their own Year of Mercy celebration. “Each of you is the bearer of a history, culture and precious values and, unfortunately, also often of experiences of poverty, oppression and fear,” the Pope said. An estimated 7,000 migrants from 30 countries were present. The group passed through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers. He said that the presence of migrants is a visible sign of the universality of the church and the integration of newcomers.
Please read the entire article by clicking on the link.
WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES JANUARY 17, 2016
Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy
In response to an invitation from the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council has prepared homily suggestions and prayers of the faithful to help dioceses, eparchies and parishes celebrate the 102nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, January 17, 2016.
The theme of Pope Francis’ 2016 Message is “Migrants and refugees challenge us: The response of the Gospel of mercy“. In his Message, the Holy Father reminds us that “migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?”
You can find these homily and prayer resources by clicking on the link.
Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace
The birth of Christ brought joy, light and peace to people of all nations. It is this joy and peace that we pray for, work for and long for. Pope Francis has declared this year as a Jubilee Year of Mercy. He asks us to focus our efforts on the corporal works of mercy. These include, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and giving shelter to the homeless. This is the ministry of the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC), and indeed each one of us is invited to take action on one or several of the corporal works of mercy.
All of us here at the CRSC pray for true joy, light and peace to fill your hearts and souls during this Christmas season and throughout the year.
Thornhill parish – beacon of hope for Mideast refugees
An article published in the Catholic Register dated November 26, 2015 the author Jean Ko Din describes the work of the very active refugee sponsorship committee at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church in Thornhill, Ont., north of Toronto. Rami Kaai is one of the leaders and is the financial secretary of the local Knights of Columbus Council. Its Knights of Columbus council is founder of two organizations, FoodforSyria.org and IAmIraqiIAmChristian.org. Both projects work with churches and refugee communities to provide supplies and financial support to displaced Christians.
Jesus the King parish is the only parish in Canada to hold Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) status. Jesus the King acquired its SAH status, with the help of the Office of Refugees in the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT), in December 2014. Since then it has helped sponsor and resettle 38 refugee families from Syria, Iraq and many surrounding areas. Pastor Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad said acquiring SAH status was very important to the parish because the migrant crisis has always been a great concern for the people in the community.
Despite the committee’s limited resources, Kaai said the parish is welcoming new refugee families every two to three months. Meeting the families at Pearson International Airport makes all the work worthwhile. “They are crying and they pray,” said Kaai. “They say, ‘Thank you Jesus the King. Thank you Canada, we are now safe.’ But some they are still shaking at night.”
You can read the full article by clicking here.
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I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me”
Pastoral Letter on Welcoming Refugees
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.
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Greece’s Caritas aids refugees with food, clothing, human warmth
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service had an article published in the Catholic Register on October 20, 2015. She mentions Caritas Internationalis, which shares the mission of the Catholic Church to serve the poor and to promote charity and justice throughout the world. In the article she describes the arduous journey of thousands of people fleeing Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan passing through the makeshift transit centre daily at Idomeni, a Greek village — population 120 — on the border with Macedonia. Caritas has been helping people all the way from Turkey to Germany. “Uncertainty is the name of the game,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis. “Caritas is Caritas because of those simple people who give of themselves,” the cardinal said.
You can read the full article by clicking here.
Bishops of Canada urge national political leaders and Catholics throughout the country to take action on refugee sponsorship
On October 1, 2015 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. He calls on the Government of Canada to expand, accelerate, and facilitate the private sponsorship of refugees during this time of urgent need. In addition to calling on the Government of the Canada, the resolution by the Bishops of Canada is also addressed to dioceses, parishes and religious communities throughout the country, urging them to welcome refugee families. The CCCB speaks directly to the Government of Canada, no matter which party forms the government – “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.”
A summary of the letter is contained on the CCCB website – here
The full text of the letter can be found here
You can read more about the letter on our blog page here
BISHOPS OF CANADA ENDORSE AND SUPPORT
JOINT FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES
BY DEVELOPMENT & PEACE, CNEWA CANADA AND ACN CANADA
On September 17, 2015 the CCCB published a statement endorsing and supporting a joint Canadian fundraising campaign by Development and Peace (CCODP), Canadian Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) Canada and Aid to the Church in Canada (ACN) Canada. The campaign invites Canadians to organize their own parish collections from now until Sunday, November 15, 2015, inclusive. Each diocese is free to decide how it will distribute the funds among the three national agencies. The three Canadian Catholic aid and development agencies will collaborate in their fundraising for Syrian refugees, so as to respond as effectively as possible to the complex and overwhelming Syrian emergency.
RESPONDING AS CATHOLICS TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS
On September 8, 2015 the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) responded to the refugee crisis with an open letter from Archbishop Paul-André Durocher President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He reminded us of the haunting images we have all seen in the press and the constant message of Pope Francis “to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway.”
The Archbishop provides some suggestions for action which we can undertake. These include:
- Sponsoring a refugee family – he provides contact information for the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC), the Office for Refugees for the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) and the Office des communautés culturelles et rituelles in Montreal.
- Donate funds – he provides some contacts to which one can send funds, such as The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), Aid to the Church in Need, Canada, CNEW Canada, and Canadian Jesuits International.
- Get involved politically – he refers to the various election guides by the CCODP, CCCB and others
- Be informed – he refers the reader to Caritas International, and the United Nations Refugee Agency
- Combat prejudices and fears – Major obstacles facing refugees as they seek protection and shelter involve apathy, indifference, apprehensions and prejudices in those countries where they seek refuge. When our hearts are fearful, our doors remain closed to others in need. One way to address this negative attitude is is through inter-religious dialogue.
- Stay focused – There are some 13 million refugees now throughout the world, of whom four million are from Syria. The problems they face are immense. We can receive electronic news about the upcoming CCCB resource on refugees, and he provides the link to subscribe.
- Meditate on Scripture and pray – Check with your diocese and parish on plans for special days of reflection, prayer, fasting and community action for the displaced people of our world.
This letter contains many excellent resources and lots of food for thought. Share it with your networks.
You can read the full text of the message by clicking here.
Archdiocese of Toronto Launches “Project Hope”
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto announced the launching of the “Project Hope” in a press release dated September 8, 2015. He says that this is a special emergency appeal to respond to the tragic situation of this global humanitarian crisis. The project is “100, 3, 100 and 100” – 100 hundred days to raise 3 million dollars to settle 100 refugee families with 100 hundred volunteers. The archdiocese will prioritize refugees fleeing war and violence in areas of greatest need, including Syria and Iraq, regardless of religious affiliation.
The archdiocese established the Office for Refugees (ORAT) in 2009 to advocate and facilitate the welcome of refugees to the region. To date, ORAT has initiated the resettlement of 2,519 refugees, sponsored by 160 Catholic churches. Project Hope is above and beyond ORAT’s current efforts.
The Cardinal outlined the various ways that people can participate in the campaign – through the Archdiocesan website, calling the Development Office, or through their local parish.
You can read the full press release here.
Pope Francis calls on every parish across Europe to house refugee families
On Sunday September 6, at his weekly Angelus prayer Pope Francis asked each Catholic Parish and community to house at least one of the tens of thousands of refugee families risking death to migrate to the continent from the Middle East.
The Pope said, “With the nearing of the Jubilee of Mercy, I address an appeal to the parishes, to the religious communities, to the monasteries and shrines of all of Europe to express the concreteness of the Gospel and welcome a family of refugees, as a concrete gesture in preparation of the Holy Year of Mercy.” The pontiff specified the scope of his request: “Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every shrine of Europe house a family, starting from my diocese of Rome.”
You can see and hear the Pope speaking at his weekly audience, with English subtitles, by clicking here.
The text in Italian, under the heading “Appello”, can be found here.
Pope Francis releases theme for World Day of Migrants and Refugees
On August 20, 2015, Pope Francis announced the theme for the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Sunday January 17, 2016. The theme is:
Migrants and Refugees Challenge us. The response of the Gospel of Mercy.
The date for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees is Sunday January 17, 2016. The first part of the theme follows the ongoing crisis along the Mediterranean. The second part, which reads, ‘The Response of the Gospel of Mercy‘ because the next World Day of Migrants will take place precisely during the Year of Mercy, which starts on December 8th 2015.
You can find a short summary of the announcement by clicking here.
A short video accompanying the message can be found here.
Knights of Columbus in the USA create Christian Refugee Relief Fund
The National Catholic Reporter newspaper from the United States reports that at the Knights of Columbus’ 133rd annual convention held Aug. 4-6 in Philadelphia, Pa., Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced the creation of the Christian Refugee Relief Fund to aid persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria. Anderson said, “We will begin a new education campaign to expose the crimes against humanity that are being committed. It is time for a season of truth about what is happening to Christians and other minorities. It is a time for action.”
Andrew Walther, the vice president for communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus said, “Our program of humanitarian aid is directly responding to Pope Francis’ request for assistance to persecuted Christians in the region, and his reference to this situation as genocide.”
You can read the full article by clicking here.
Edmonton parish mobilizes to offer refuge to refugees
In the June 15 edition of the “Western Catholic Reporter” Thandiwe Konguavi wrote an article describing how several parishes mobilized to sponsor refugees to come to Calgary. Paulette Johnson is the refugee sponsorship coordinator for Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Calgary and she helped to coordinate the efforts. Parishes were involved as well as schools, St. Vincent De Paul Society and the Knights of Columbus.
The archdiocese submitted 20 applications for Syrian and Iraqi refugee sponsorship in 2014. That means 55 people in 20 families from the two countries will find homes in the archdiocese. In 2015, so far CSS has submitted 28 cases for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, involving another 63 people. Altogether, 14 parishes have been involved in rescuing persecuted people from Syria and Iraq.
You can read the full article by clicking here.
Rethinking Refugee Camps: New solutions for human crises
The CBC radio program “The Current” hosted by Anna Maria Tremonte broadcast a program on Tuesday May 19, 2015. The program dealt with the fact that the United Nations Refugee Agency is re-thinking its approach to refugee camps. Two main guests were interviewed. They are: Catherine-Lune Grayson who has worked in refugee camps in East Africa and Yemen. She’s a PhD candidate at the Université de Montréal, and Michael Kagan who teaches law at the University of Nevada. He spent 10 years developing legal aid for refugees in the Middle East.
The program explains that there are more than 16 million refugees in the world today. Fewer than 10 percent of refugees in the world are resettled into a third country each year. Of those who are, Canada takes in about 1 in 10. In addition, 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries. The main host countries to refugees are Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The Dadaab camp in eastern Kenya has about 350,000 people. It is now a 3rd generation camp, the world’s largest.
The United Nations (UNHCR) is discussing the possibility of creating alternatives to the traditional refugee camp. However, there are obstacles. For example, as Michael says there is a great need for emergency food and shelter, and then education for the children. The camp provides a controlled “open air prison” for people. Catherine states that the emergency situation makes the camps necessary, but for the long term, there is no need for them.
Stephen Corless from the UNHCR says that they are pursuing alternatives where possible. However, some governments have policy to set up camp only for the for safety of people. He believes refugees are better off living in community, but what about the long term? These are the questions to be explored. Michael calls for a multilayer approach.
You can listen to the entire program by clicking here.
Fr. Nawras Samnour – Jesuit Refugee Service – Syria
On February 17, 2015 Steve Paiken from “The Agenda” – a program broadcast from TVO in Ontario, held an interview with Fr. Samnour a Jesuit priest from Syria. He works with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria. He spoke about the situation of the people in Syria and how this service is trying to be of help. He speaks about his own history as a Syrian watching his country crash down in ruins and the many people killed and displaced. He mentioned that at one time refugees from other countries came to Syria for refuge but now the Syrians themselves are forced to leave. The Jesuit Refugee Service offers a variety of services. One is general assistance of food, clothing, household items etc. The next is medical aid. The reality is that many specialists like doctors and other medical personnel have left Syria so the need is great to offer this aid. The third is service to children in terms of psycho social and educational programs. In terms of ISIS he says very clearly they are “barbarians” and he cannot believe that people in the world can act in that way. For Fr. Samnour, the solution is not to have a big winner. In that way we have many losers. The solution is for all people to win. The future is bleak, he says, and it may mean that the whole process of peace must be “re-done”.
Please visit the Jesuit Refugee Service here.
You can watch the entire interview by clicking here.
St. Joseph’s Sisters Spearhead Call to Protect Migrants
January 25, 2015
In an article written by Michael Swan of the Catholic Register on January 25, 2015, he reports that the St. Joseph’s Sisters have taken a step toward protecting migrants. “We are calling for the globalization of solidarity through governmental policies that create comprehensive protection of the rights of all migrants,” says a paper submitted to the United Nations Commission for Social Development. The major author of the report is Sr. Sue Wilson, director of the CSJ Office for Systemic Justice in London, Ont. “In terms of the (United Nations’) convention to protect the rights of refugees, most people would see that as including the right to basic goods and services such as health care,” Wilson said. “The latest policy from the federal government has been trying to really help provinces to pull away from providing health care if they wish to do so. I’m not saying that Canada is minimalist, or that all of our policies are, but there are minimalist interpretations within that.”
The priority theme of the document is, “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world.” You can read the full document by clicking here.
WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
JANUARY 18, 2015
“CHURCH WITHOUT FRONTIERS, MOTHER TO ALL”
Archdioceses and Dioceses across Canada are celebrating this important day. Here is a small sample of some events in Canada to mark this day.
Refugee Day Mass – Monday January 19 @ 7:00pm. Organized by Couples for Christ, the Diocese and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. Mass to be held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Calgary.
Multicultural Mass – Sunday January 18 @ 1:00pm. Mass to be held at the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King, Hamilton.
Mass to celebrate World Day of Migrants and Refugees – Sunday January 18 @ 11:00am. Mass to be held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 202 St. Patrick St. Organized by the Toronto Chinese Catholic Task Force.
World Day of Migrants & Refugees Mass – Sunday January 18 @ 2:30pm. Mass to be held at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 555 S. Slocan St. Vancouver.
“Rise and take the child”
“Behold an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said “Rise and take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt”. –Matthew 2:13
And so we are the followers of Jesus who was once himself a refugee.
At this time of year we recall the 2nd Annual Catholic Conference on Resettlement held in December 2012. One of the speakers from the Middle East said that while here in the West Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, in much of the Middle East it is a time of church bombings.
We hope that for Christmas and the New Year we can continue to carry the message of that Conference which was the genesis of the CRSC and do our part with your prayers and help. The problem of Refugees seems almost insurmountable and worsening daily.
But we were born to Faith, Hope and Charity as children in the Light of Christ and it is this that propels us forward to do what we can to lessen the plight of those driven from their homes by persecution and violence.
Our Best Wishes to every one for a Holy and Safe Christmas from all of us at CRSC.
“Let’s Take Action: Let’s Help Immigrants”
Violence in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu – Statement by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
+ Paul-André Durocher Archbishop of Gatineau, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on Friday October 24, 2014 calling this is a time of profound national sadness for all Canadians in the wake of the attacks in Ottawa and Quebec. He says, “We worry that the horror of terrorism is taking root in our soil”. He calls on all of us to work for peace and justice for human beings everywhere.
Why has Canada only taken 200 Syrian Refugees?
Why has Canada only taken in 200 Syrian refugees?
Toronto Star Sunday September 21, 2014
Dr. Martin Mark states, Why has Canada only taken in 200 Syrian refugees? In the three and a half years war has raged in Syria, displacing 10 million people, Canada has struggled to resettle fewer than 200 Syrian refugees overseas and is still processing asylum applications from another 1,300 who made their way to Canada on their own. In 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada created a new Centralized Processing Office in Winnipeg to rapidly vet private sponsorship applications. The goal was to complete the initial application review in 30 days. At current staffing and productivity levels, it is estimated that it will take (the office) over two years to clear the existing inventory of cases, in addition to almost two and a half years to process projected 2014 application submissions.
“This year, the shift was moving from a sort of balanced global approach towards Syria,” Immigration Minister Chris Alexander told the Star. “And as the Syrian crisis and the UN appeals have come forward, we’ve tried to shift our planning in response.”
“There is no political will to be either fast or flexible,” says Naomi Alboim, chair of Queen’s University’s Policy Forum and a former deputy-minister of citizenship in Ontario.
Please read the full article located here.