It took the exposure of the lifeless body of a small child lying face down in the ocean’s sand to raise the collective disgust of the West. Canadians are fortunate in a way. The massive influx of refugees from the world’s trouble spots won’t suddenly cross oceans and permeate our borders. We’re safe to watch the crisis unfold at a distance which in many ways impacts our level of responsibility–we don’t have to respond out of sheer necessity. Thankfully, geography doesn’t people from responding, which can be quite easy. Here are some ideas to help you decide how you’ll respond to help both the Syrian crisis, and refugees and displaced persons.
Education is your first step. Understanding the complexity of the problem and how it connects to much broader global issues will inform how you respond when offering temporary relief, but also
how you could contribute to the re-orientation of systemic problems that oppress entire regions and people groups. The Syrian crisis has been ongoing for a very long time, the most recent civil war breaking out over 4 years ago, but we’re taking notice now because the influx of people permeating the borders of Western European countries has hit a saturation point.
Another way to respond, and how you can make an impact the crisis is to give money. Here are some suggestions where your dollars can be directed.
Donating to organisations that are working to rescue migrants and refugees at sea will respond to the immediate crisis. MSF have a sea rescue programme and won’t over-fundraise so if they receive enough for their work in the Mediterranean, they will use it for other forgotten crises that don’t get as much attention.
Other organisations working either in the Mediterranean or the Syrian crisis (countries included in the region: Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon) that have Canadian arms (so you get a tax receipt) include Oxfam, CARE, World Vision, Handicap International, UNICEF, Save the Children, War Child and the Canadian Red Cross is always a good bet as they are part of the largest network of humanitarian responders in the world.
Any non-profit organization benefits when you sign up for a regular donation so they can plan future programming effectively rather than just getting general funding when the news feeds pick up something horrific.
In terms of organisations assisting resettled refugees in Canada, it is mostly done locally. In Calgary, the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and the Mennonite Central Committee do a lot of resettlement support.
Responding is very easy, almost too easy, just pick one of the organisations above and give money.
And there’s more. The Canadian sponsorship program is another option if you’re looking to respond in a deeper way.
Church leaders should consider ways to radically re-orient their resources to address the crisis. Pope Francis lead the way in the first week of September exhorting Catholic churches in Europe to open their doors and accept at least one migrant family each. Imagine if churches in North America could figure out a way to use their vastly empty spaces to respond.
Certainly, offering prayers individually and corporately is another important step, but make sure you give as your pray. Church leaders can continue including the crisis in their weekly liturgies, Lord knows, the Bible is full of stories of displaced people finding refuge in far away lands. It is the very nature of the Gospel to provide refuge for oppressed.