Jesus gives hope to refugees

  • June 27, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - Recalling the story of how Jesus’ family was forced into exile in Egypt (Mat. 2:13-23) refugees and the volunteers who support them sang “Jesus was a refugee” at an ecumenical prayer service on the eve of World Refugee Day in Trinity-St. Paul United Church in downtown Toronto.

Refugees from every continent were represented at the June 19 event. Actors recruited from FCJ Hamilton House — a transitional home for women refugees run by the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus — portrayed life in a refugee camp and related their experience to the Bible in God Sees the Refugee, a play by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema.

Rev. Lois Wilson, retired senator and former moderator of the United Church of Canada, preached on the question of hope.

“How is it possible to hope in this kind of world — a world divided by race and class and theology?” she asked.

She cited the Thomas a Kempis nugget that “Jesus has many lovers of His celestial kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.” By that criteria, “The victims have become the bearers of hope,” Wilson said.

The congregation capped its prayers for refugees by signing postcards addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to eliminate the $550 fee refugees now have to pay Immigration Canada to process their application for permanent residence, and to eliminate another $550 fee for processing humanitarian and compassionate leave applications which apply to women and children escaping domestic violence.

30,000 refugees enter Canada annually

  • Canada accepts more than 30,000 refugees per year.

  • About two-thirds of that total make it to Canada on their own then claim refugee status. Citizenship and Immigration Canada chooses 10,000 to 12,000 refugees a year, typically bringing them to Canada from United Nations-run refugee camps. This represents about 10 per cent of the refugees resettled each year through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

  • Last year parishes and religious orders in the archdiocese of Toronto sponsored 51 refugees. This year Catholic Cross Cultural Services of Toronto is planning to double that number.

  • There were 11.4 million refugees caught outside their countries at the end of 2007, a rise of 1.5 million over 2006.

  • Conflict-induced internal displacement has produced 26 million refugees worldwide who have yet to cross an international border, a rise of 1.6 million from the year before.

  • In addition to the usual war and repressive regimes, the UNHCR reports increasing levels of refugees created by bad government, environmental degradation, extreme price hikes.

  • UNHCR blames violence in Iraq and Afghanistan for most of the rise in refugee numbers the last two years following five years of steady declines.

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