Friday, August 04, 2017
Stretching Hospitality to the Stranger?
A year and a half ago we spent a pleasant Spring weekend in Montreal and attended a Blue Jays vs Red Sox preseason game at the Olympic Stadium. It was our first visit to the Big O and I was struck by the seediness of this venue which might as well be the Big WE -- for White Elephant. It cost taxpayers an obscene amount of money and is rarely used anymore.
Now it is being pressed into service to house the influx of asylum seekers streaming across the Canadian border into Quebec from the United States, anywhere from 100 to 300 a day and a total of 6,500 over the past six months. The majority of these people are Haitians, and there is already a significant Haitian community in Quebec because it is a French-speaking province. For a time in the Winter our attention was focused on Manitoba, where asylum seekers were risking their lives entering the country illegally in frigid temperatures. Some suffered severe frostbite and lost appendages.
This latest wave of desperate people finding their way into Canada will be a test to our patience and hospitality. Many faith groups, including our coalition in Belleville, moved through appropriate channels to welcome Syrian refugees over the past two years. There were protocols and time for preparation. Even still, welcoming more than 25,000 newcomers was a challenge to governments and sponsoring groups. What will happen now, and how will churches, synagogues, mosques, temples become involved?
I pray that we won't claim "compassion fatigue," or drift toward the xenophobia we are witnessing south of the border. This can be a big O, for opportunity.