Friday, January 22, 2016
The Courage of Refugees in Canada
The meeting yesterday of the Belleville United Churches Syrian sponsorship group was the last of six for me in three days. I should have been weary and resentful. Instead I was weary and deeply touched by what was a two-hour gathering of people whose hearts are huge. We laughed, we were moved to tears, we were heartened.
The Al Mansour family of five is finding its way into life of Canada with courage and determination. The three boys walk together to school now, joined each day by a friend of the oldest. When the middle boy was asked if he had friends he smiled and answered "whole class." The boys are picking up English quickly, but Mom and Dad are in ESL classes and she has gone from being excruciatingly shy to making an honest effort to converse with those who have befriended her.
The father and oldest son are now regulars at the mosque and the Arabic speakers there have been invaluable allies in helping the family settle. Several of them attend all of our meetings and they are warm and funny. At the meeting one who came from Syria accused another from Lebanon of attempting to sabotage his presentation. Their jocular banter had us all laughing out loud.
The family has been here less than six weeks and those who work with them have seen an astonishing transformation in their demeanour, and they express gratitude at every turn. The father is eager to find work, knowing that his family depends on the Canadian government and our group to fund their day-to-day living. He wants to be a contributor rather than a taker. And they are wondering what has to happen for other family members to come here. They are already convinced that this country will be home and want the same safe, welcoming environment for their other loved ones.
At the end of the meeting I told the group that this is Canada at its best. A report issued yesterday says that Canada is the second best country in the world to live in after Germany. It was definitely first in my heart yesterday. God bless the Al Mansour family and God bless all who are welcoming them in Belleville.