The Odesho’s Syrian relatives have been living, along with hundreds of thousands of refugees, in Beirut. The Christian refugees are crowded into the poor Aytiryya neighbourhood of the city (above). Lebanon, a country of just 4.5 million is host to 1.2 million refugees. Photo by Michael Swan.

First wave of Syrian refugees will land in Canada with Church support

  • December 10, 2015

Among the first planeload of Syrian refugees to land at Toronto Pearson International Airport around 9 p.m. Dec. 10, at least one family has made it to Canada thanks to Catholic refugee sponsorship.

Franklin Edishou, his wife Souria Boko and their children picked up Souria’s brothers Odicho, Kanan and Machiel at the airport after they cleared final security and health checks and were welcomed to Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the wee hours of Friday, Dec. 11. Trudeau’s welcoming party also included Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and federal opposition party representatives.

The three in-laws will be just the first instalment of five Syrian refugee-relatives the Edishou family has sponsored with the help of the Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto and St. Joseph’s Syriac Catholic Church in Mississauga.

Two of Edishou’s brothers-in-law were unable to make it on the first planeload, but Edishou expects them in a week or so.

The Edishou’s relatives have been living as refugees in Beirut since March, where they fled during an ISIS attack on their village in the Al-Hasakah Governorate.

“They left while they were shooting at them — three in the morning they left their village,” Edishou told The Catholic Register. “A couple of them, they were making fun of themselves. They were saying, ‘We were in pyjamas, almost.’ They had nothing with them.”

The Edishous in Toronto have been supporting their refugee relatives, along with three other Syrian brothers currently stuck in Germany.

“We send them some money with people who were going to visit,” Edishou said. “You know, when you hear somebody is going, you have $500, you give it to them.”

The Edishous put up $31,500, or $6,300 per person, to sponsor their relatives — a surety they will get back after their relatives have been in Canada two years.
Franklin Edishou works 12 hours a day at a Toronto pizza restaurant as a cook.

The effort and expense to sponsor his in-laws is a huge mountain, but one Franklin Edishou and his family simply had to climb. Family is everything to the Aramaic-speaking Christians of the Middle East. Being in-laws doesn’t make them any less family.

“When you get married with the daughter, they become your father and mother and your brother. We are so close to each other,” he said. “We become one.”

Edishou also shares the experience of being a refugee with his relatives. He left Iran during the Shiite-Sunni, Iran-Iraq war in 1988. As a Christian in the middle of a Muslim war, he simply had to find refuge.

“Me personally, I’m very grateful to Canada and to be in Canada,” he said.

Edishou travelled to Syria in 1998 to get married, but hasn’t been back in the region since then.

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