A warm welcome for a Syrian refugee family in Canada

Sponsorship made it possible for the Syrian family of four to resettle in a safe place where they can educate their children, work and become part of a community. Photo: ELCIC Communications
Sponsorship made it possible for the Syrian family of four to resettle in a safe place where they can educate their children, work and become part of a community. Photo: ELCIC Communications

Commemorating the Reformation by sponsoring refugees

In a first of its kind, staff from the three Lutheran bodies in Canada have jointly welcomed a Syrian refugee family to Canada marking the beginning of a year-long commitment.

The reception of the family of four at the Winnipeg International Airport on 23 February is part of a pledge by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) and Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) to support a refugee family for a year using staff-pooled resources.

The unique initiative was sparked by CLWR, the humanitarian relief and development agency of the LCC and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member church ELCIC.

Canadian Lutheran World Relief global support to refugees includes partnership with the LWF in Jordan where more than 600,000 Syrians are hosted. Around 79,000 live at the Za’atri camp near the capital Amman, and in host communities where LWF offers psychosocial support. Outside the camp, LWF assists urban refugees with food vouchers, housing and rehabilitation of schools.

The newly arrived family includes two boys under the age of nine. The parents, both in their early 30s, worked as English teachers in Syria. They fled to Jordan after the Syrian conflict began and were living in Amman before being connected to CLWR.

Sponsoring 500 refugees to commemorate the Reformation

“Last summer our church adopted a policy on welcoming the stranger. It is so wonderful to put that policy into action,” said Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada National Bishop Susan C. Johnson, who is also LWF Vice-President for North America.

“As a church we have also committed ourselves to sponsoring 500 refugees in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. I'm delighted that myself and my colleagues at the National Office will get to participate in this commitment in a hands-on way.”

Inspired to sponsor

With just a few days’ notice of the family’s arrival, the organizations scrambled over the weekend to make final arrangements for an apartment, furniture and household items, a phone and groceries to last for the first few days. Arrangements quickly fell into place thanks to the eyperience of the Canadian Lutheran World Relief in this area. Its “Sponsorship Agreement Holder” with the Canadian government since the 1970s has been facilitating refugee sponsorships for groups of private Canadians.

Last summer our church adopted a policy on welcoming the stranger. It is so wonderful to put that policy into action.

ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson

“My colleagues and I felt it was time to walk the walk and become sponsors ourselves,” Canadian Lutheran World Relief executive director Robert Granke noted. “I have visited Jordan and met Syrian mothers and fathers who are desperate to resettle in a safe place where they can work, educate their children and become part of a community. We knew we could support a family in this way."

Last November, Canadian Lutheran World Relief staff began collecting pledges to sponsor one person. Canadian Lutheran World Relief extended the invitation to the two churches to join the initiative, making it possible to bring an entire family to Canada.

Granke adds, “The staff teams of CLWR, ELCIC and LCC are excited about a direct engagement with the refugee sponsorship process. Collectively we are learning, serving and setting an example that other agencies and groups could emulate. I would encourage others, including those within the LWF network, to consider refugee sponsorship.”

He encourages others, including those active in the LWF network, to sponsor refugees in a similar way.

Following the recent wave of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict in Syria and other countries for safety in Europe, the LWF communion churches and their partners have assisted refugees in Hungary, Germany, Sweden and Finland. In 2015 alone, the LWF cared for more than 1.7 million refugees and 700,000 internally displaced people across the world.

 

From a contribution by Trina Gallop

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