Ordinary People Welcoming Refugees

Source: nyt.com

At the end of April, I discovered that our federal government, led by Justin Trudeau, was proposing some legislation that would seriously affect the rights of refugees.  What’s more is that it is deeply hidden in an omnibus budget bill (C-97) in an attempt to reduce debate.

This is the same government that welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2016 and stated openly that Canada would welcome people who are persecuted (as a response to Donald Trump’s unwelcoming attitude to the stranger).  It is hard not to become cynical when you realize that the government’s proposed legislation is in reaction to the population’s feelings that our border situation is out of control with “droves” of refugee claimants “flooding” over our border from the States.

However, a few days after that, I was reminded once again of the beauty and the power of ordinary people who are welcoming the stranger day in and day out.

I was at a meeting of my parish refugee committee.  Our parish had sponsored a Muslim Syrian refugee family.  We had been meeting on a regular basis for the last 2 years and this was to be our last formal meeting.

And so, I asked the people at this meeting how they would describe their experience of accompanying refugees.  I was astounded by their answers.  Here is what some of them said:

“It was demanding, exhausting, frustrating, but thoroughly rewarding.  And I would do it again.”

“It was overwhelming and heartwarming.”

“I didn’t know anybody in the church.  I felt alone.  Somebody invited me to be a part of this committee since I was fluent in Arabic.  I now have made many connections and built relationships and I now feel that I am really part of this church community.”

“I have met so many open people.”

“When I said to the refugee family that I didn’t have many family members, they said that I could join their family.”

“Welcoming this refugee family has had a ripple effect on my own family, my friends and my work colleagues.  A lot of them were openly questioning my choice of accompanying a refugee family.  But when they met this wonderful refugee family, their attitudes changed for the better.”

These people give me hope in a time when those that govern us try to shut their doors to the stranger.  Maybe they should try to spend some time with them.

Norbert Piché is the Directeur national Service jésuite des réfugiés - Country Director Jesuit Refugee Service – Canada

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:59h, 26 June Reply

    Thank you Norbert!

  • Bill Clarke, sj
    Posted at 11:02h, 26 June Reply

    Thanks for this Norbert, it is very moving.

  • Bill Clarke, sj
    Posted at 11:03h, 26 June Reply

    Thanks Norbert, this is very moving to hear.

  • Peter Larisey
    Posted at 20:08h, 26 June Reply

    hello Norbert,

    Yours is a very helpful blog, and should be used as a basis for policy rather than
    kept at a distance by political manipulation.

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