A Palestinian refugee family who came to Canada via Syria is welcomed by Archbishop Colin Johnson and members of St. James Cathedral in February 2015.
Welcoming the stranger is an integral part of our Christian faith. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel are frequently reminded of the obligation to care for those who are strangers or foreigners, because of their own history as foreigners in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 10:17-19). Jesus, whose family also fled to Egypt to escape persecution by Herod (Matthew 2:13-23), told His followers that those who welcome strangers, are welcoming Him. (Matthew 25:31-40).
Canada is internationally regarded as a leader in refugee protection. In 1986, the UN’s annual Nansen Refugee Award was given to the “people of Canada” in honour of outstanding service to the cause of refugees. In fact, Canada’s celebrated private sponsorship of refugees program was established in large part due to the advocacy and action of Christian churches. Today churches and other faith communities continue to make up the majority of organizations recognized as Sponsorship Agreement Holders with the Canadian Government for the welcoming and resettlement of refugees.
The Diocese of Toronto is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder and works with our ministry partner AURA (The Anglican-United Refugee Alliance) to sponsor refugees through our parishes. Parishes interested in undertaking a refugee sponsorship should contact AURA for details of, and guidance through, the process. All refugee sponsorship undertakings by parishes must be approved by the Diocese.
In addition to sponsorship, our call to welcome the stranger leads us to address policy issues which directly affect the well-being of refugee claimants and other migrants. Anglicans in our diocese have advocated for individual refugee claimants, against cuts to health care for refugees, and against policies which put vulnerable people in danger.
Recent developments in the U.S. have led many refugee advocates to advocate for the rescinding of the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. Our justice partner Citizens for Public Justice has produced an excellent resource, including background material and a sample letter, which you can download here.