HOSTING REFUGEES IN RELIGIOUS HOUSES
JPIC Newsbrief October 2017
The Refugees and Migrants Working Group (RMWG) hosted the JPIC English Promoters Meeting last October 18. Twenty-eight congregations are currently hosting refugees in 30 of their houses. Since the beginning of the project (2014), 111 persons are on their own.
With Fr. Jude Nnorom, CSSP as facilitator, the session began with the prayer on the reality of migration. This was followed by the experiences shared by four resource persons who spoke of their community’s blessings, challenges, best practices and questions. They include Sr. Maria Josè Rosa of the Ursulines of the Roman Union, Fr. Nico Espinosa of the Society of the Divine Word, Fr. David Reid of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, and Sr. Carmen Elissa Bandeo of the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit.
- Assisting families and persons to be independent and to recover the dimension of intimacy and family.
- Refugees/migrants are helped to create new links of networks, contacts, acquaintances and opportunities.
- Responding to the call of the Church and to participate in her mission, refugee/migrants have helped us to develop sensitivity to their cultural and religious plurality.
- The language becomes a barrier for communication. Caution is necessary regarding boundary issues, while offering advice, feedback, providing accompaniment, and caring for their health.
- There is fear of suffering due to xenophobia and prejudices. Complex issues are related to money.
- Faced with new people and culture, there is an unconscious drive to save their identity, while integrating into their new local reality.
- Treating them like neighbors, friends and long term guests; celebrating their important days; keeping the balance between respect for their privacy and making our presence with them; assigning a member of the community as reference point for refugees; stating the boundaries clearly with due care for their employment and religious perspectives; informing them of expectations; respecting the desire to give back in small ways like sharing their meal.
- The project has to be regularly evaluated and updated.
- How to help the refugees take responsibility for their own life and to create a network amongst themselves to promote better conditions for their lives.
- How can we develop and make known the right of all to emigrate and immigrate, as stated in Catholic Social teaching (cf. Compendium of the Social doctrine of the church, no. 100, 289, 297, 298, 308, and 505).
- How do we balance the needs of the refugees/migrants and the local community? Sr. Maria Jose Rey Merodio, Coordinator of the Centro Astaili Program for Congregations in Rome, explained the Semi-Autonomy Project: Community of Hospitality, which facilitates the exit of refugees from the reception circuit, creating a bridge to accompany the passage from assisted reception to autonomy. The project allows the gradual involvement of the beneficiaries in the direct participation in their own sustenance and in the re-appropriation of the administration of everyday life. They help to create new links in the territory and insertion in the fabric of society. The project makes possible new forms of widespread reception.
Challenges for the Centro Astali Program include: finding a stable and regular working insertion, finding
places to rent on a regular basis after the period of semi-autonomous reception, adhering to a straight-
line path of integration, logistic and bureaucratic difficulties linked to being transferred—residence, school insertion of minors, being taken charge by the relevant social services, etc., accepting the conclusion of the reception period, cultural difficulties (saving money, maintenance of the spaces, etc.).
We are grateful that the RMWG will be developing a handbook to share their experiences with other persons interested in working with refugees and migrants.
Following are references to more information regarding refugees/migrants:
Contributed by S.Vincent Anesthasiar, CMF
JOURNEY TO JUSTICE
On August 2nd 2017, the Prairie Messenger posted an article written by Joe Gunn, Director of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). In the article he discusses various activities of the Churches in Canada. He mentions the history of the involvement of faith-based groups in settling refugees in Canada. Catholics mobilized to welcome refugees who arrived in special movements from Hungary in the 1950s, Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, and even Uganda in the 1970s. He also writes about the Canadian Council of Churches joining Amnesty International and the Canadian Council for Refugees in a court challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), a deal which endangers the lives of asylum-seekers.
Another interesting historic note is that in March 1979, the Mennonites signed the first Master Agreement with Ottawa to facilitate the private sponsorship of refugees.
He finally calls on the faith groups to go beyond the hard work of receiving and settling newcomers, our faith communities must continue to advocate for improved governmental policies related to refugees. Wait times are still too long, stretching over six years for sponsorship applications from some parts of Africa.
You can read the full article here: Journey to justice Aug. 2017
You can also find the article on the website of the Prairie Messenger
WORLD REFUGEE DAY – JUNE 20, 2017
Every minute 24 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. The UNHCR has proclaimed June 20 as “World Refugee Day”. UN Secretary-General, António Guterre says “On World Refugee Day, held every year on June 20th, we commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.”
Please visit this link for further information: World Refugee Day
A Prayer for Refugees
Almighty and merciful God, whose Son became a refugee and had no place to call his own; look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger, homeless and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief; inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts; and guide the nations of the world towards that day when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Immigration Minister vows faster processing times for refugees
In the April 27 edition of the Catholic Register, Michael Swan reports on some information from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRC). Minister Hussen says his department is working closely with the Canadian Sponsorship Agreement Holders’ Association to speed up the bureaucratic application process for sponsors, but the problem is a backlog of refugees left in limbo over previous years.
A report published by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) indicated that Canada can accept and process more refugees. Joe Gunn, the Executive Director said that the sponsoring groups are ready to take more people and there’s no reason to wait six years, six-and-a-half years for people from Ethiopia. There’s no reason for that to continue.
The article also quotes Bishop Crosby, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) who said in a letter to the Minister: “In the spirit of fairness and non-discrimination, your department must expedite processing for Syrians in parallel to all refugee groups. It is neither reasonable nor fair for an Afghan family in Pakistan to wait 75 months, or for an Eritrean refugee in Egypt to wait 55 months, to have their sponsorship applications processed to completion.”
The Minister said, he promises Canada will take a big bite out of the mounting inventory of refugees who have been promised resettlement in Canada this year.
“Our levels plan this year is historic,” he said.
You can read the entire article here: Faster Processing Times
You can also find it here: Immigration minister vows faster processing times for refugees Register April 2017
General Assembly High-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants
This important conference will be held in New York at the UN Headquarters on Monday September 19, 2016. This is a high-level plenary meeting in order to respond to large movements of refugees and migrants. The aim of the Summit is to develop a global approach to situations of mass population flows that is more comprehensive, predictable, systematic, and equitable.
Participants will include Government officials, members of civil society and refugees themselves. The Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice in conjunction with the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC) will also send a representative.
The meeting is expected to secure firm, action-oriented commitments to enhance responsibility-sharing and to strengthen international cooperation. The Secretary-General has recommended that Member States adopt a global compact on responsibility-sharing for refugees and agree on a road map to guide the development of a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration.
Please read more information about the Summit: Summit
You can see the schedule for the day at this link: Schedule
Getting Syrians here was easy. Now comes the hard part.
Maclean’s Magazine, on August 9, 2016 published an article written by Michael Friscolanti in which he details and describes the process of refugees from Syrian hearing the news that they will be brought to Canada and how happy they are to be here. In the article he reports on an interview he had with Rabea Allos from the CRSC. Mr. Friscolanti poses the inevitable questions about this whole process. These include: “Now that they’re here, will all of them thrive? Are we doing enough to ensure their long-term integration? And if not, what are the consequences years down the road”?
He reports that many Canadians do not feel there are enough resources in place to ensure a smooth transition to Canada – these include; food banks, language classes, housing, job training and mental health services etc. The Senate Standing Committee recommended that the Government boost funding for language classes and mental health services.
The article mentions the fact that refugee stakeholders are bracing for one event: “month 13.” Whether privately sponsored or government-assisted, Syrian refugees receive one year of financial support; after that, they are expected to support themselves—or apply for welfare. No one knows for sure how many will end up on welfare. Canada boasts a well-respected suite of settlement agencies and service providers that assist tens of thousands of newcomers every year. But never have so many refugees arrived so quickly, creating inevitable clogs.
“If you look at language as a unifier and one of the chief roadblocks to obtaining employment—which is a big integration factor — this is a big concern,” says Michelle Rempel, the Conservative immigration critic who sits on the House committee. “Some will do better than others,” says Carolyn Davis, executive director of Catholic Crosscultural Services, a settlement agency that also provides training courses for private sponsors.
“One refugee that fails resettlement is not acceptable, because it means we as a society failed to make sure those people integrated,”says Rabea Allos, director of the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC), an umbrella organization for private sponsorship groups. “You don’t want, a year or two down the road, for Canadians to become upset with the refugee program and believe that some people are abusing the system. They will say: ‘You know what? Let’s stop getting refugees in.’ This is the concern. We want the program to work so Canadians will continue this compassion toward bringing more refugees.”
You can read the entire article here: Syrians
WILL YOU STAND WITH REFUGEES?
UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency has developed a petition to be delivered to UN headquarters in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, on September 19. Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility.
Here is the link: #WithRefugees
I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me”
Pastoral Letter on Welcoming Refugees
The Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) published their Pastoral Letter on October 26, 2015. In their four section letter they begin by explaining in the first section (Why We Are Writing) the rationale for the letter. They are direct in saying, “We believe that discussion is not enough; this is a time for urgent action”. The CCCB is indicating that the traditional definition of a “refugee” is no longer adequate. They declare, “We can now add a new category of climate or environmental refugees”.
In the second section entitled “Biblical Teaching” the Bishops remind us that Jesus himself was a refugee, “Even the child Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled the persecution of King Herod (Matthew 2.13-14)”. The key phrase is from the Gospel of St. Mathew – “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25.35).
The next section, “Welcoming and Protecting Refugees” reminds us clearly that what we as Church can do is not only limited to simply assisting and supporting the refugee as they progress through the process of selection, but must look to full inclusion that clearly respects differences. This section goes on to note the many issues in need of clarification. These include: accelerating procedures, emphasis on family reunification, asylum, appeal procedures and others.
The final section (The Church: Speaking and Acting on Behalf of Refugees) the challenge is clear, “Our faith calls us to let ourselves be moved – even disturbed – by our sisters and brothers who are refugees”. The Bishops note and congratulate the many parishes and other groups who have sponsored refugees over the years. In terms of the Government, the Bishops say, “It is imperative that this Catholic voice be heard by the Canadian government”. There are several practical ideas that are meant for all of us to undertake. These include: call on the federal government, praying for refugees in camps around the world, support Development and Peace and CNEWA, create local diocesan services, mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees, provide formation for pastors and pastoral workers and establish a pastoral ministry for migrants.
You can read the entire letter here: Welcome the Stranger
RESPONDING AS CATHOLICS TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS
On September 8, 2015 the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) responded to the refugee crisis with an open letter from Archbishop Paul-André Durocher President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He reminded us of the haunting images we have all seen in the press and the constant message of Pope Francis “to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway.”
The Archbishop provides some suggestions for action which we can undertake. These include:
- Sponsoring a refugee family – he provides contact information for the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC), the Office for Refugees for the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) and the Office des communautés culturelles et rituelles in Montreal.
- Donate funds – he provides some contacts to which one can send funds, such as The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), Aid to the Church in Need, Canada, CNEWA Canada, and Canadian Jesuits International.
- Get involved politically – he refers to the various election guides by the CCODP, CCCB and others
- Be informed – he refers the reader to Caritas International, and the United Nations Refugee Agency
- Combat prejudices and fears – Major obstacles facing refugees as they seek protection and shelter involve apathy, indifference, apprehensions and prejudices in those countries where they seek refuge. When our hearts are fearful, our doors remain closed to others in need. One way to address this negative attitude is is through inter-religious dialogue.
- Stay focused – There are some 13 million refugees now throughout the world, of whom four million are from Syria. The problems they face are immense. We can receive electronic news about the upcoming CCCB resource on refugees, and he provides the link to subscribe.
- Meditate on Scripture and pray – Check with your diocese and parish on plans for special days of reflection, prayer, fasting and community action for the displaced people of our world.
This letter contains many excellent resources and lots of food for thought. Share it with your networks.
You can read the full text of the message here: Responding as Catholics