Many churches have been involved for years with the private sponsorship of refugees, but the refugee sponsorship ground is shifting under our feet due to policy changes in the past few years. CPJ’s recent study about the status of SAHs (Sponsorship Agreement Holders, including churches) is revealing: churches are very concerned about wait times and processing delays, cuts to the Interim Federal Health program, lack of government consultation, and changes to the age of “dependent children.”
At the same time, our national discourse is becoming increasingly xenophobic. Talk of “bogus refugees” and “queue-jumping” does not cultivate hospitality towards refugees and promotes unsubstantiated stereotypes about displaced people.
What are churches to do in this shifting environment? Some are choosing to get out of sponsorship altogether, but others are looking for help to understand new refugee realities and how best to practice hands-dirty Gospel love and justice for and with our refugee neighbours today.
In response, several agencies of the Christian Reformed Church have partnered with practitioners to create a toolkit of resources for churches and other groups to learn about the experiences of refugees in Canada today and respond. The cornerstone of the toolkit is a ninety-minute interactive workshop that will debut at the Ancaster Day of Encouragement on Saturday, October 18. (Tentatively titled “Welcoming Refugees.”) The workshop will cover the biblical call to hospitality, a role-play to dig into current refugee realities and how various policies impact the lives of refugees, and liturgical resources and will point towards possible next steps for participants. We’re excited about the potential of this workshop to help us to imagine walking in refugees’ shoes and learn how we might advocate with and welcome them.
As my former colleague Rose Dekker, who worked for years with World Renew for church-based refugee sponsorship, wrote not long ago, “I think the people of Canada should be rising up en masse to say, ‘This is not how we should be responding to people in such urgent need.’ Sometimes in our church circles we say we need a call to “renewal” or “revival”—to turn from our selfish, complacent ways and become obedient once again to God’s calling on our lives….Helping refugees get settled in Canada could well renew our own souls.”