Pray, Write and Act for Syrian Refugees

September 10, 2015 – Keith Simmonds
Dear friends in Christ,

In Corner Brook, at General Council 42, we learned that we were all dear. Dear to the heart of the greeter, dear to the folk we met, m’dear and m’darling to just about anyone who claims ‘The Rock’ that is Newfoundland, as home.

Each day we’d be asked “How’s she cuttin’, b’y?” and each day we’d respond “Best kind, b’y, best kind”. It was true enough. There among so many church folk, surrounded by so much love and so much care, it was ‘best kind.’

This past week, though, I’d have said “The bottom’s gone right out of her.”

I’d just seen the image of one of our dear ones washed ashore in Turkey. Laying there as still and lifeless and without help as any has ever been. Behind him lay the waters that had swallowed up the capsized boat, filled with folk seeking refuge. The waters that overwhelmed him and his mother and his brother.

Behind him I heard his aunt’s tears. “I don’t blame the Canadian government so much,” she said, after telling the story of her efforts to bring her brothers and their families to our country. “I blame the world. They could stop the war in Syria, they could stop supplying arms to the fighters and they will not. I blame the world and I hope they will make it stop.”

I’m not writing to suggest we blame anyone. There’s enough of that going around, enough and more than enough for all to share. I am writing to suggest we do something, we church folk, who know one another to be dear. Dear to us and dear to God.

1. Pray

I want us, first and foremost, to pray. Pray for those who are suffering, for those who are fleeing, for those who’ve lost children, for those who are children. For those who are helping, and for those who are so overwhelmed that they cannot see anyway to help at all. Especially, perhaps, for them. I think we are among them. Most of us. We’ve been so caught up in our own lives, so attentive to our own needs, so concerned in our own living that we’ve been able, somehow, to forget to attend to those who are fleeing, those who seek refuge, those children of God who need our help, who need our care, who need our love.

2. Write to government

I think we’ve allowed our government to struggle on its own. To take the brunt of the decision making upon themselves. They’ve closed the doors on Syrian refugees and many, many others because, I believe, they think we want them to. They’ve chosen to add munitions and armaments to the war in Syria because, I believe, they think we support armed intervention over shutting off arms sales and sending in peace makers. I think our government would change its approach, if it knew we supported that change. I think our political leaders would appreciate, value and take courage from your prayers and your letters of support for other choices. Choices of open doors for those in flight and doors closed on bombs and guns. Consider this template when writing your letter. Send your letter to this address of the Prime Minister.

3. Sponsor a refugee

Above are the easy steps. This one’s a bit harder. I think we could take a cue from our friends and family members in Sweden, Germany and Iceland. We could open our own doors, and do what we can to bring families into safe harbour, here in British Columbia. We can sponsor refugees, there are many on the government’s pre-approved lists already. None from Syria, perhaps, but I expect that will change soon enough.

As The United Church of Canada, we occupy a special place in the world of refugee sponsorship. We are an ‘organization of record’ and can bring people over much more quickly (sometimes within a month or two) than community groups or private sponsors who often have to wait years. This does not mean we have to go it alone, or that we should go it alone. Many folk in our communities would love to know how to help, and who to partner with.

Get together with your friends and neighbours, offer the services of your church, seek whatever help you need from our national office. Read FAQs about The United Church of Canada’s Refugee and Migration support. Reach out to our dear ones. Leave no more on the shore. Pray, Write, Act. Draw the circle wide. Be the best kind you can be.

Yours in Christ, 
Keith Simmonds