Oh Canada, might you be the North Star to our immigration crisis here on our southern border? A window — an icon — into a more humane way?
The Canucks have done something amazing up there. Hockey moms, poker buddies, and neighbors have adopted Syrian refugees, one family at a time.
A 2016 article in the New York Times tells the story, highlighted here:
Across Canada, ordinary citizens, distressed by news reports of drowning children and the shunning of desperate migrants, are intervening in one of the world’s most pressing problems. Their country allows them a rare power and responsibility: They can band together in small groups and personally resettle — essentially adopt — a refugee family. In Toronto alone, hockey moms, dog-walking friends, book club members, poker buddies and lawyers have formed circles to take in Syrian families. The Canadian government says sponsors officially number in the thousands…
When Ms. McLorg, one of the sponsors, first met the Mohammad family, she had a letter to explain how sponsorship worked: For one year, Ms. McLorg and her group would provide financial and practical support, from subsidizing food and rent to supplying clothes to helping them learn English and find work. She and her partners had already raised more than $40,000 Canadian dollars, selected an apartment, talked to the local school and found a nearby mosque.
In the hotel lobby where they met, she clutched a welcome sign written in Arabic but could not tell if the words faced up or down. When the Mohammads appeared, Ms. McLorg asked their permission to shake their hands.
Abdullah had worked in his family’s grocery stores and Eman had been a nurse, but after three years of barely hanging on in Jordan, they were not used to being wanted or welcomed. The family had been in Canada less than 48 hours and their four children, all under 10, had been given parkas with the tags still on. (It’s cold up there!)
As they headed to their new home, Abdullah asked,“You mean we’re leaving the hotel?” And“to himself, he wondered, “What do these people want in return?”
Much of the world is reacting to the refugee crisis — 21 million displaced from their countries — with hesitation or hostility. Greece shipped desperate migrants back to Turkey; Denmark confiscated their valuables; and even Germany, which has accepted more than half a million refugees, is struggling with growing resistance to them. Broader anxiety about immigration and borders reverberates across the globe.
Reverberating urgently here in the United States, as well, but…
Just across the border, the Canadian government can barely keep up with the demand to welcome them.
“I can’t provide refugees fast enough for all the Canadians who want to sponsor them,” John McCallum, the country’s immigrations minister said.
No matter your politics or policy opinions, no one can doubt there is a crisis on our southern border. Illustrated poignantly in the heartbreaking drawing of a child, the tragedy hits home. A crush of humanity: men, women, and children fleeing political unrest and violence in Central America have overwhelmed our immigration system. And by our government’s own accounting, by the Inspector General of Homeland Security, detention center conditions are abhorrent: overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe and unimaginable. The United States has detained thousands whose only crime is legally seeking asylum. Legally seeking security and safety. The safety and security, we take for granted.
Which makes this story from north of the border seem almost like a fairy tale.
What the Canadians are doing is not without risk of course. It is far from easy. It’s messy, and complicated, and expensive. There are no crystal balls to know ten years from now – how this will all play out. While the Canadians vet the immigrants the best they can, there is no guarantee there are not bad apples among them.
But this is the cost of compassion — the story of the Good Samaritan writ large.
And if anyone were to ask in this global village – in this world of ours – what is the “essence” of our faith? Jesus has the answer, his answer to the lawyer’s question in the Gospel of Luke.
“You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
“Do this and you shall live.”
“But who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer asks.
And Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, probably the most familiar parable in all of scripture.
“And which of these three, do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
“The Samaritan” – the lawyer replies – “the one who showed him kindness.” The Samaritan — a despised foreigner, a believer of a rival creed. The Samaritan crosses the road, reaches deep into his own pockets and binds up the stranger’s wounds.
And what are we to do?
That not so famous theologian, Kurt Vonnegut, in his book, A Man without a Country, recounts an encounter with a young American from Pittsburgh, who asks: “Please tell me everything will all be okay?”
And Vonnegut replies:
“Welcome to Earth, young man. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside Joe, you have about a hundred years here. There is only one rule that I know: Goddamn it, Joe, you’ve got to be kind.”
Simplistic? Naïve? Well according to Jesus, being kind can make all the difference in the world.
The priest and the scribe flee the scene, but not the Good Samaritan. He is kind beyond words. And in our current crisis, we can be too.
Charity Navigator is a helpful resource. They report: The recent news of children being separated from their caretakers at the border of Mexico and the United States highlights the need for a larger conversation about families fleeing their homes, communities, and countries in the wake of famine, social unrest, persecution, war, and environmental disasters. Highly-rated nonprofits advocate for and provide relief to refugees, internally displaced persons, and stateless groups around the world. They seek to provide for individuals basic needs like food, water, and shelter while advocating for policies and legislation that will address the root causes of this crisis.
First is very close to home, our very own —
Christ Church Refugee Ministry – Three years now, Emmanuel has shepherded three different Afghan refugee families. Join the Care Team – which helps with everyday needs such as clothing, doctor’s appointments, and household needs. Or donate dollars to the cause, Christ Church Refugee Ministry currently helps 29 families here in the City of Alexandria.
Second is Mother Church: Episcopal Migration Ministries provides resources for education, advocacy and direct relief and assistance to migrants and refugees. In 2017, EMM resettled more than 4,000 refugees from 34 countries in 30 communities across the country.
And there are many other organizations working on frontlines to address this crisis: the Texas Civil Rights Project, The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Church World Service, Oxfam America and UNICEF USA, are just a few.
May this Sunday, July 14thbe Good Sam Sunday, to do something tangible and concrete. May God grant us ample compassion to cross the road to bind the stranger’s wounds – the stranger who is our neighbor – no matter where they come from.
And so, let me end this post with a prayer from the BCP,
O God, you made us in your own image: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that in your good time, all nations and races may serve one another in harmony, in your name. Amen.