Canadian Lutherans work together to sponsor Syrian refugee family

Residents of Za'atari refugee camp, seen here after a snow storm in 2014, play in the remaining patches of snow. Canadian Lutherans hope to bring a Syrian family to Canada. LWF Jordan/J. Pfattner
Residents of Za'atari refugee camp, seen here after a snow storm in 2014, play in the remaining patches of snow. Canadian Lutherans hope to bring a Syrian family to Canada. LWF Jordan/J. Pfattner

National Bishop Johnson: Living out the call to be a church in mission for others

National and regional staff from several different Lutheran bodies in Canada are coming together for the first time to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. 

Staff from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR), the Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) and the LCC Central District office will pool donations from each otherto raise money to support a family of five for a year.

The unique initiative was sparked by the CLWR, the humanitarian relief and development agency of the LCC and ELCIC. Earlier, CLWR staff agreed to collect pledges to sponsor a Syrian living in Jordan, where most of CLWR’s overseas programming for Syrian refugees takes place.

ELCIC, LCC and CLWR have their headquarters in Winnipeg, in the western province of Manitoba, and that’s where they expect the family will live, so staff can provide emotional support and connect the family with settlement services, such as language and job training, and counseling.

CLWR has an agreement with the Canadian government, which allows the organization to facilitate private sponsorships for congregations, families and other groups. Once a family is identified, CLWR expects it will take up to six months before they arrive in Winnipeg.

“Each day we work to support congregations who are acting as refugee sponsors in Canada,” said Robert Granke, CLWR executive director. “My colleagues and I are excited to come together as a team and welcome a family, together with colleagues from the ELCIC and LCC.”

The ELCIC is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with nearly 114,600 baptized members in 525 congregations. It is a member of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The LCC has 62,000 baptized members in 315 congregations.

More than 620,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Jordan seeking refuge from the four-year civil conflict in Syria. LWF assists Syrian refugees at Za’atari refugee camp and Jordanian host communities with food voucher programs and the Peace Oasis Program serving 1,500 young people.

The joint effort by Canadian Lutheran staff is on top of the refugee sponsorships individual ELCIC and LCC congregations undertake every year across the country.

ELCIC congregations have pledged to sponsor 500 refugees by 2017 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 

“I’m so glad our staff are participating in this sponsorship and taking part in the ELCIC Reformation Challenge,” said National Bishop Susan C. Johnson, a Vice-President of LWF. “Our partnership with CLWR is such an important part of living out our call to be a church in mission for others.

“The refugee sponsorship between our national offices is especially timely given the fact that our government is committed to increasing the number of Syrian refugees to Canada. Together we are taking ‘welcoming the stranger’ very seriously.”

LCC President Rev. Dr Robert Bugbee said, “I'm deeply grateful to our friends at CLWR for inviting us to take part in this project. There are few better ways to come to grips with the worldwide plight of refugees than to spend concrete time with real individuals.”

 

(From ELCIC Information bulletin)

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