Wednesday, March 09, 2016
A Message of Hope
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.