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From Our Bishops

Archbishop writes to parishes, urging support for refugees

To Active Clergy and Churchwardens in the Diocese of Toronto

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Over the past few days, many of you have been in contact with the Diocesan office to find out more about sponsoring Syrian refugee families in this time of crisis. All of us here share your concern and are deeply moved by your faith-filled generosity. Since my article was posted on the diocesan website earlier this week, additional facts about the plight of refugees have come to light.

Perhaps you heard a recent CBC news report about the number of Syrian refugee families eligible for sponsorship to Canada through the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) Program. The BVORs are just one of the programs that allow Canadians to sponsor refugees to Canada. Other options include “extremely” high-needs cases or family-linked cases that take a lot more time to build and process. BVORs are increasingly popular to process, as the cases have already been built and the costs are split between the sponsors and the government. There are only 9 Syrian cases like this (as well over 100 of other nationalities). The government is promising more cases will be in the system soon.

Eligibility for sponsorship is determined by current Canadian federal Government guidelines. As you may know, as signators to the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees (signed by Canada in 1969), Canada has agreed to accept only those persons who have been certified as Convention Refugees. Our government provides further criteria to ensure that those claiming refugee status are bona fide refugees. Due to the overwhelming increase in the number of refugees worldwide, the UN has been unable to meet the processing demands the situation dictate.

While the situation is dire and demands a greater response from the international community, I want to assure you that there is something that your parish can do, right now, today, that will make a difference in the lives of refugees.

Did you know that by supporting FaithWorks, you are, in fact, saving the lives of refugees overseas, as well as helping to support the sponsorship of refugee families coming to Canada? PWRDF is working with the ACT Alliance and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to provide food, water, hygiene kits, health care, shelter, education, psychosocial support and more, to tens of thousands of displaced Syrians. Closer to home, AURA, the Anglican-United Refugee Alliance, is the Sponsorship Agreement Holder for the Diocese of Toronto. AURA assists parishes in determining their capacity to undertake the private sponsorship of refugees, assists them in completing the sponsorship application requirements, helps them understand and prepare for the arrival of refugees, and assists in troubleshooting issues that may arise before, during, or immediately after the sponsorship period.  Any parish interested in sponsoring refugee families – from Syria or any number of nations in crisis – should contact AURA as soon as possible. AURA’s website and social media are excellent resources for information about the plight of refugees worldwide.

On Saturday, September 26, AURA will host an informational forum on “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and What You Can Do.” The forum is designed for anyone who is interested in learning how they can get involved in refugee sponsorship through AURA. The session will be held at the AURA office located at 2723 St. Clair Ave. E., Toronto beginning at 10:00 a.m. The presentation is free but pre-registration is required.

I urge you to find out more about these organizations and the good work they are doing on our behalf. I ask you to join me in praying for our Ministry Partners, PWRDF and AURA, and their ongoing efforts to ease the suffering of so many whose lives are in danger. And I hope that you will remember that these ministries – along with every one of our FaithWorks Ministry Partners – depend upon us to provide the necessary financial resources to serve the most vulnerable people in our community and around the world.

For more information, I invite you to visit our website, To make a secure online donation in support of refugees, visit and choose either PWRDF or AURA from the drop-down menu on the gift designation page.

Let us remember the One who laid down His life so that we may have life.  Let us love one another as He loved us.

Yours faithfully,

The Most Reverend Colin R. Johnson
Archbishop of Toronto