But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1 John 3:17
FACES is a partnership of Glebe St. James, St. Matthew’s, St. Giles and a community group that came together in the fall of 2015 to sponsor refugees. Since then we have sponsored a Syrian family and Iraqi family and are expecting a Liberian woman to arrive any day now. In addition we have helped ten families of particularly needy Government Assisted Refugees and refugee claimants to acquire furniture, household goods and clothing to help them get a good start on their new life in Canada.
Let me tell you some of what I have learned about refugees from our sponsored families. Refugees are not people who have left their homes in search of economic opportunity or a better life. Faiz and Rihab, the Syrian couple we sponsored, were living in a small village in Idlib province south east of Aleppo. You may have heard of Idlib because that is where the latest chemical attack occurred. They were living surrounded by their extended families and they were happy. Then war came to their village. They and their entire extended family fled to Turkey in fear of their lives. They can never return because their village has been reduced to rubble.
Hareth and Marwa, the Iraqi couple we sponsored, were living in Baghdad. They were solidly middle class like us. They had a home and a car and they both had good jobs. They were happy. Then one day Hareth’s life and the lives of their children were threatened because he refused to participate in a corrupt scheme at work. They knew from family experience that in Iraq these are not idle threats there is no authority that can rely on to protect you. They immediately went into hiding and fled to Turkey as soon as they could get their papers together. They left everything behind – their home, their car and their extended families.
Another thing I have learned about refugees is that once they have fled, they live lives of hopelessness, despair and even desperation. We have applied to sponsor Marwa’s cousin and his wife and I had to tell Marwa that it would be at least two years after the application was approved before they would arrive in Canada. Marwa said “that’s no problem, because they will have hope.” She said the worst part of the almost 3 years they spent in Turkey was the hopelessness. They were not allowed to work. They were unable to plan or build a future. They worried constantly about what would become of them and of their two children. Once they were approved to come to Canada, it didn’t matter how long the rest of process took, because they had hope again.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are 21.3 million refugees around the world. FACES is trying to help. What we are doing is small relative to the need, but it’s still important. It changes lives.
FACES is launching a new phase of its work for the care and support of refugee families from the Middle East, Africa and other needy regions. Our goal is to raise $100,000 in 2017. With this money, we will be able to settle more families over the next two years. Please help us continue our work. Cheques can be placed in the offering plate or sent to the Church office. Make the cheque payable to Glebe St. James United Church and indicate “refugee support”.
Karen Walker, Margaret Ford