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The Syrian Refugee Crisis - What Should We Do?
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The worldwide response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis is both heartwarming and heart wrenching. Just as the responses by governments around the world vary from one extreme to the other, so do the opinions of their citizens. There will never be unanimous agreement, not even here in London.

We all hear the cries to open up our boarders and allow an unlimited number of Syrian refugees to come to Canada. We too hear the other end of the spectrum, to put a padlock on our borders and allow none entry to Canada.

The following are some of the most recent facts along with some action being taken locally, nationally and internationally. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, you have no right to complain or disagree with the decisions made by the government, the province, the city and your church unless you have voiced your approval or disapproval...or suggestions for alternatives. If you have an opinion, share it with the politicians and the church leaders. Maybe your ideas will be part of a viable plan that the majority can support.

To those that say, "open the borders - it's the right thing to do", please consider this. We have heard suggestions that Canada could immediately take in 10,000 Syrian refugees. In 2013-2014 the total number of finalized (allowed) refugees into Canada in accordance to Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act was 8,500.

Before setting a number of Syrian refugees to move to the front of the line there needs to be a plan to finalize the 16,500 refugee applications now pending. Is it fair to put aside those applicants from the People's Republic of China, Pakistan, Colombia, Nigeria, Iraq, Slovak Republic, Afghanistan, Hungary, Haiti and 26 other countries deemed applicable under the Canadian Resettlement Assistance Program while focus shifts to the Syrians? (In that total of 16,500 there are already 559 Syrian applicants that precede this explosion of the numbers fleeing Syria.

The Federal Response
On September 8th, the government announced that Canada has expanded its commitment to help Syrian refugees by resettling an additional 10,000 Syrians over the next three years. This brings Canada's total commitment to helping Syrian refugees up to 11,300 by the end of 2017.

A total of 2,406 have been resettled in Canada as of September 8, 2015. Two days later Jason Kenney said that details about the government’s plan to significantly increase the number from 10,000 are coming, but refused to get into specifics. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promised last week that an announcement would be made "in the very near future."

The federal government is expected to enlist retired immigration officers as part of a build-up of personnel and resources to speed the flow of Syrian refugees to Canada. As part of the build up, immigration officers are being mobilized to go to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Europe in preparation of the government’s announcement.

The Ontario Response
The Ontario government is pledging $10.5 million to the Syrian refugee crisis, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced on September 12.

Wynne said the province hopes to resettle 10,000 refugees by the end of 2016, though she notes the provincial government doesn't have the power to sponsor those refugees.

Refugees have been fleeing Syria en masse since 2011 when the country spun into a civil war that is estimated to have taken more than 100,000 lives.

Most of Ontario's contribution will help "expedite the resettlement of refugees all across Ontario and support them as they build new lives here" over the next 2 1/2 years, Wynne said, adding that $2 million will go to immediate humanitarian aid on the ground overseas.

"The funding we've committed today will help us work with individuals, with faith based groups and with community organizations to reach our goal," she said.

The London Response (Some but certainly not all)

The following is some of the first of the plans released by London's political and church leaders.
  • A message form Mayor Matt Brown
  • Christian Churches of London gathering action plans from area churches
  • A message from Bishop Fabro of the Catholic Diocese of London

The Mayor of London, Matt Brown
This week, in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, a number of community leaders, organizations and I are working together to raise awareness and necessary funds to sponsor several families and help them settle here in London.

Fundraising began Tuesday, Sept.8 and as of Friday morning, early reports indicate that our community has raised more than $41,000 and the momentum continues.

Over the next month we will be working with faith leaders and community organizations to raise funds and awareness so that London can prepare to welcome Syrian refugees with open arms.

Also on Friday, I participated in a conference call with Big City Mayors' Caucus (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) to discuss how we could co-ordinate our efforts countrywide. More information about this FCM initiative will be released in the days to come.

There are a number of ways Londoners can get involved and donate to help sponsor a Syrian family:

Donations can be made at all five Libro Credit Union branches in London. Libro Credit Union is also accepting e-transfers at Lifeline@libro.ca.

Metropolitan United Church, 468 Wellington St, London, ON, 519-432-7189,
St. Andrew Memorial Anglican Church, 55 Foxbar Rd, London, ON, 519-434-5281 and
Byron United Church 420 Boler Rd, London, ON, 519-471-1250,
St. Aidan's Anglican Church of London, 1246 Oxford St W, London, ON, (519) 471-1430.
The London Muslim Mosque at 151 Oxford St. W., 519-439-9451,
The Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario 519-668-2268


As always, I look forward to hearing from you. You can connect with me via email: mayor@london.ca and/or follow me on Twitter @MayorMattBrown and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MattBrownLondon

Sincerely,
Mayor Matt Brown

E Ross Chapin, Executive Director, CCNL (Christian Churches of London)
(CCNL's contact list includes 230 churches and 110 servant ministries in the London and neighboring communities)

As we all know, there is a situation in a specific area of this world that has reached the crisis level. This crisis is so large that the world is going to have to become involved in the creation of an appropriate response. I am referring to the crisis generated by the magnitude of the refugees fleeing Syria.

It was noted in the London media over the past week of need for those of us in London with capacity to help to join together and prepare an appropriate response. CCNL is encouraging all of the churches and servant ministries in London to consider how they can help.

While the media mentioned several organizations that would serve as conduits for channeling financial resources to assist with this situation, many churches and ministries have questions from their organizations perspective. CCNL has published a contact list to member churches and ministries to receive questions they have and point them in a direction that will help.

Many CCNL organizations are already assisting with the crisis though I have asked the churches and ministries to e-mail CCNL’s office (info@ccnl.org) with a description of what they are doing, so we can compile a summary of the responses the various churches and servant ministries in London have made. This information will be published in Christian Life in London Online as soon as it becomes available.

Ross Chapin
Executive Director, CCNL

Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabbro, C.S.B., Bishop of London Roman Catholic Diocese of London
Dear Friends:
These past weeks it has been devastating to hear stories of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are fleeing homelands that are ravaged by war. They make the very difficult decision to seek new lives in new lands that can offer them the peace and security no longer possible in their home countries. Refugees make these decisions to flee out of desperation and at great peril. The photo of the young boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose dead body was found on a beach in Turkey epitomizes the dangers refugees face in the course of their journeys to freedom. There are at this time 13-million refugees throughout the world, of whom 4-million are from Syria.

In the face of such tragedy and need, our faith compels us to act and to respond with a generous heart to Jesus who calls us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners (Matthew 25:35-36).

How can I help today?
Through the strong commitment to refugees that our diocese has made over the past twenty-five years, we have the knowledge, structures and networking channels in place to assist individuals and parishes that wish to respond to this present crisis. We invite you to consider participating in one or more of the following opportunities:
  • Educate yourself and your children about the plight of refugees. Our refugee office can help you.
  • Speak with your pastor or pastoral team about the possibility of your parish sponsoring a refugee family. Several parishes can collaborate to sponsor a family. Government assistance to cover costs is available for refugees’ first six months in Canada.
  • If your parish cannot sponsor refugees at this time, consider special collections to assist our refugee ministry in its work. There is always a need for funds to assist refugees who are without sponsors.
  • If you are in the Windsor area, volunteer to assist inland refugees who do not have a family or others to support them.
  • Donate or raise funds to cover expenses incurred by refugees, such as medical or dental costs or the cost of work permits, or to purchase gift cards for use in grocery or clothing stores.
  • Donate or raise funds to assist families in bringing their relatives to Canada.
  • Advocate on behalf of refugees: Write to your local Member of Parliament and ask him or her about using flexible measures such as Temporary Resident Permits for family members in Canada or petition them to restore the Group of Five and Community Sponsorship Programs that remove the requirement of proof of individual determination as a refugee by the UN.

For more information or to donate to our refugee ministry, please contact Gilbert Iyamuremye at giliyam@dol.ca or Claire Roque at claireroq@dol.ca or call 519.256.0506

We need to join together in prayer for refugees and for peace throughout the world. Consider Archbishop Durocher's suggestion to have in your parish a day of prayer, reflection, fasting and community action; and invite other people of faith. Remember refugees in your personal and family prayer.

In John's Gospel, Jesus says, "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12). When we put our trust in the Holy Spirit, we can be confident that welcoming refugees to our communities, feeding, clothing and caring for them are these "greater works".

Together we are strong. I urgently encourage all of us to act now and make a commitment to do our part in alleviating this humanitarian crisis.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabbro, C.S.B., Bishop of London

The Middle Eastern Response
  • Lebanon is hosting 1.1 million refugees registered with UNHCR, which amounts to about 26 percent of the country's population
  • Jordan hosts 618,615 registered refugees, which amounts to 9.8 percent of the population.
  • Turkey is hosting 1.6 million refugees, which amounts to 2.4 percent of the population.
  • Iraq hosts 225,373 registered refugees, which amounts to 0.67 percent of the population.
  • Egypt has 142,543 registered refugees, which amounts to 0.17 percent of the population.
  • In Syria, about 190,000 people have been killed and 10.8 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside the country.
  • More than 10 million Syrians, or 45 percent of the country's population have been displaced.
  • Of these, 6.5 million are displaced within Syria and about 4 million have sought refuge in other countries.
  • A total of 63,170 resettlement places have been offered globally since the crisis in Syria began, which only represents only 1.7 percent of the total number of refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey.
  • 378,684 people in the five host countries - or ten percent are in need of resettlement (permanent residence), according to UNHCR.
  • Amnesty International calls for at least five percent of refugees to be resettled from the 5 host countries in late 2015, and a further five per cent by the end of 2016 (this amounts to 380.0000 people).
  • The six wealthy Gulf countries - Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain - have offered to receive exactly zero Syrian refugees.
  • Other high-income countries, including Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have also offered to receive exactly zero percent of the Syrian refugees.
  • An Egyptian Christian and billionaire philanthropist has announced he is hoping to buy an island, from either Greece or Turkey, to help resolve the massive refugee crisis hitting Europe. During a recent interview with Telecom CEO Naguib Sawiris who reportedly has a net worth of around $3 billion, told CNN he has sent letters to the prime ministers of Greece and Italy asking them to sell him an island so he can house and employ 100,000 to 200,000 refugees, many of whom have fled Syria's four-year civil war.