Thursday, January 07, 2016


Last evening we went to see the film Brooklyn which is about a young Irish woman, Eilis
(Ay-lish) Lacey, who makes the difficult choice to emigrate to America in the early 1950s. Even though there is a significant Irish diaspora in the New York borough of Brooklyn, Eilis is desperately homesick and dislocated. I won't spoil the plot, but she does adjust, and well, only to be beckoned home by family circumstances. The tension between familiarity and possibility is finely wrought.

The acting is consistently superb in this film and it is quite moving. Along the way Eilis encounters a number of people who help her transition.  I was grateful that the ex-pat Irish priest in the story is a positive figure, kind, practical, and hospitable. Too often clergy are portrayed as cold and officious, and in the case of priests, predatory.

I thought a lot about the Syrian family we have sponsored and which has taken up residence in Belleville. Coincidentally, yesterday was the one-month anniversary of their arrival and the day the parents began their English as a Second Language training. Both hope to work and know they need English. The boys resumed school on Monday and the older two are enthusiastic. Despite wonderful support from the sponsorship team and members of the Islamic community this is a tremendous cultural transition for the Al Mansours. There isn't a resident Syrian community and only a handful of Arabic speakers in town.

I have pondered whether the family might eventually return to Syria is the conflict and danger ends for them, although what would they return to? They hope that other family members will be able to emigrate, but there are no guarantees. They are probably terribly homesick for a life which was destructive yet familiar.

Siham Abu Sitta smiled throughout her Metro Morning interview.

Yesterday I also listened to a wonderful interview on CBC Metro Morning with the mother of a Syrian family of three sponsored by a Toronto congregation. The father was killed a couple of years ago, but the articulate, motivated mom is determined to make a life in Canada and learned English in a matter of months anticipating her transition. She describes the Fairlawn Ave United Church congregation as her new family.

We can make every effort to welcome the strangers in our midst, as scripture directs us to do. We can accept that this Syrian family and all the others will make choices in their best interests which may not fit with our assumptions. They have already demonstrated such courage.  We can practice hospitality in Christ's name and pray for their wellbeing.


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