Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A Message of Hope

Popole Misenga fled war in the DRC and is hoping to compete under the Olympic flag

Refugee athlete from the DRC

It is customary for the host team at the Olympics to enter the stadium first, leading the representatives from other nations past the cheering and supportive crowd. This summer in Rio de Janeiro will be different in a way that reflects the changing realities of our planet. The lead team of athletes will be made up of refugees, 43 at the moment, those who have been displaced from their countries of origin and are still without a nation to call home. This team is being described as a "message of hope."

We are told that there are more migrants and refugees now that at any time since the Second World War. Roughly 40,000 people are displaced each day, with half of them under the age of eighteen.

We are seeing how this pressure of people on the move is affecting nations which have attempted to respond. A number of European countries have imposed stricter security and laws regarding migrants. There has been a rise in popularity for right wing political parties and in Germany one rightest leader has called for laws allowing police to shoot illegal immigrants on sight if necessary.

Today our refugee sponsorship group which involves three Belleville United Church congregations and a number of other partners will discuss the possibility of taking on another Syrian family. If we do, it will likely be another family related to our current family of five. We have heard repeatedly how much better refugees adjust if there are loved ones close at hand sharing the experience.

 It seems like the proverbial "drop in a bucket" to welcome a couple of families when the need is so pervasive and growing almost exponentially. Still, we are called to compassion and hospitality in Christ's name, one situation at a time. Here in Canada it is becoming clear that while the government sponsorship of refugees has garnered the attention, the reality is that faith coalitions and community sponsorship groups are doing the best job of welcoming newcomers and ensuring that their experience is positive. Let's not lose sight of this or weaken in our resolve. We can offer our own message of hope.



roger said...

While it's important for countries to accept the Syrian refugees, I'm concerned with their long-term wellness.

There is a lot of attention given to them when they first arrive - and rightly so - and they are supported for the first year, however that is not very long considering they have little money or belongings and often have difficulties with the language.

That attention they are getting will quickly evaporate, and then what? I worry that they will become increasingly frustrated and disappointed.

To my knowledge, the so-called Vietnamese "boat people" back in the 80's have adjusted okay, so I hope the same will be true for the Syrians. But they will need long-term support.

David Mundy said...

The financial and moral commitment our refugee sponsorship group made and will fulfill is for two years. We are already fully funded to do so. This is why churches and other groups need to step up for sponsorship. I'm convinced there is a greater determination and a depth of compassion that will see our sponsored Syrians through the transition. Thanks Roger.