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).
Bishop Andrew Asbil designated Sunday, May 15, 2022, as Refugee Sunday in our Diocese. As it is also the first Sunday after
While World Refugee Day is observed annually on June 20, National Indigenous Peoples’ Day is on June 21 and many of our parishes celebrate National Indigenous Day of Prayer on the Sunday closest to that date. In order to give our refugee sponsorship ministry its own focus, our Diocese observes a Refugee Sunday at an earlier date. As Refugee Sunday is observed near the feast of Pentecost, when the early Church first awakened to its calling to be a place of welcome for all nations, we are reminded of how our welcome transforms the world.
AURA and diocesan staff are pleased to offer resources for your parish to celebrate Refugee Sunday, including video interviews with refugees and sponsors; updated fact sheets; an overview of the sponsorship process; and prayers and worship resources. They can be found here.
AURA and the Diocese also invite sponsoring parishes to connect to share information and best practices as well as questions and concerns. A diocesan network has been established for this purpose. To join the network or to be added to the mailing list, contact Elin Goulden, diocesan Social Justice & Advocacy Consultant and AURA liaison.
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 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 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.
Our call to welcome the stranger also leads us to address policy issues that 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 that 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.