3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
4 How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?
Psalm 137 King James Version
There is a makeshift refugee camp in France which has stubbornly defied closure, although the threat looms again this week. It's not as though The Jungle, as it's called, is a model place for asylum seekers. In fact this camp near Calais, which has shifted from location to location, has been described as a hellhole. Each time the camp is dismantled it reappears, filling up with those hoping to get to Britain by any means possible. The refugees jump onto moving transport trucks and attempt to sneak through the Chunnel. The current issue is unaccompanied minors living in the camp who have family members in Britain. Under international law they are entitled to be reunited with family, but Britain doesn't want a new wave of refugee claimants.
I contrast this with the United Refugee Family Sponsorship Group Belleville which met yesterday at Bridge St. Church. It was a warm and positive meeting with participants from three United Churches, the Muslim and Bahai communities, and a Roman Catholic parish.
We heard touching reports of trips to the Toronto and Ottawa airports to pick up family members of our first sponsored family, the Al Mansours. One grandmother and a sibling family of five are now in Canada. In both situations the Al Mansours were able to greet their loved ones at the airport and there was joy for everyone as they were reunited. One of the Al Mansour boys played O Canada and the Syrian national anthem on a portable keyboard as they made the drive to Ottawa. In Toronto the grandmother jumped out of her wheelchair when she saw her family.
Those describing the experiences were emotional in the telling, as were those of us listening. The Al Mansours and these relatives all spent extended periods of time in crowded refugee camps in Lebanon. Now they are settling in to fully equipped apartments in Belleville.
We recognize that we can't solve the problems of the Middle East and the rising tide of displaced people in the region. There are now 52 million refugees from 13 countries in that troubled part of the world, more than the population of Spain.
As people of faith, choosing a common cause of compassion and hospitality, we endeavour to make a difference in this moment and this place. We will do everything possible to let these human beings, loved by God, learn a new song of hope.