Faith Communities Step Up to Welcome Refugees

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver 

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: faith-based organizations are at the forefront of Syrian refugee resettlement efforts; Taiwan’s elections are lauded as a step towards democracy in China and members of Vancouver’s Sikh community are helping to spread the love this Valentine’s Day. 

Refugee crisis brings back painful memories for Jewish community 

Faith-based organizations in Canada play a pivotal role in resettling refugees during crises, one not often undertaken in other countries, according to a panel hosted by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute of the Greater Toronto Area earlier this month. 

Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders explained to an audience on Feb. 5 that unlike in other countries, where the government has greater control over resettlement processes, in Canada, many faith communities make efforts to privately sponsor families and assist them in their transition period. 

As reported in The Canadian Jewish News (CJN), the Jewish community has stepped up significantly to assist in the ongoing crisis. In total, 35 groups working with Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS) have formed sponsorship initiatives. Even more have formed independent sponsorship groups looking to bring Syrian families to Canada. 

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“We’re responding to this crisis as Jews, because it’s the right, humanitarian thing to do.”[/quote]

The Canadian Jewish community has a long history of supporting incoming refugees. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the community actively sponsored many Vietnamese families escaping the aftermath of the Vietnam war. 

Naomi Alboim, professor and chair of the policy forum at the school of policy studies at Queen’s University and one of the panellists at the event, explained to the CJN that the current anti-refugee movement sweeping Europe “brings back painful memories” for the Jewish community. 

“We’re responding to this crisis as Jews, because it’s the right, humanitarian thing to do,” she said. “We’re paying it forward.” 

This faith community is not alone in its endeavours. Toronto’s Muslim and Catholic communities have also stepped forward to contribute in some way. Some synagogues have even joined mosques or churches to submit joint applications to sponsor Syrian families. 

The article makes note of an event in December, during which Jewish communities in Vancouver fundraised to bring two Kurdish families to Canada. 

Taiwan election heralded as beginning of democracy in China 

Panellists lauded Taiwan’s recent election of its first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, as a sign that “democracy is compatible with Chinese culture” at a recent event hosted by the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group. 

The forum, held on Jan. 28, discussed the election that saw the former opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party, beat the Kuomintang with 56 per cent of the popular vote. Known for being pro-China, the Kuomintang has ruled Taiwan for the past eight years. 

This is also the first time that the Kuomintang has lost control of the legislature. 

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“If you want to see what China could do with democracy — go to Taiwan.”[/quote]

Panellist Andre Laliberte, a professor at the University of Ottawa, told Epoch Times after the event, “It is proof that people who have Chinese culture can have democracy, and democracy is compatible with Chinese culture.” 

Laliberte was joined on the panel by Wu Rong-chuan, the newly arrived representative for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, or the Taiwanese embassy in Canada. Wu told the Times that he felt voters had acted more rationally during this election than in years past and that policies were well discussed. 

“There was little sensational language during the election,” he said. 

Canadian Senator Michael MacDonald expressed his hopes that this victory would mark the beginning of significant change in what is “going to be the big, emerging real quest in mainland China for democracy.” 

“If you want to see what China could do with democracy — go to Taiwan,” he said. 

Sikh volunteers spread the love this Valentine’s Day 

Sikh organizations in Vancouver are scrambling this weekend as they finish collecting 900 roses, chocolates and greeting cards to distribute to shelters across the Lower Mainland for Valentine’s Day. 

Hosted by Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen and Global Girl Power in partnership with Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, this annual event sees donors and volunteers working for several weeks to raise money and organize the logistics for the big day. 

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“Sikhs believe in Guru Nanak’s philosophy to love all and feed all.”[/quote]

“Sikhs believe in Guru Nanak’s philosophy to love all and feed all,” Roveen Kandola tells The Indo-Canadian Voice. 

Kandola, who works with Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, adds, “It’s important that during these times, we think of those less fortunate and make their day much brighter.” 

Over the past three years, this initiative has reached over 100 shelters in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland including Burnaby Safe House, Elizabeth Gurney House and Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter. 

The intent of the event is to give women and children at these locations “the opportunity to experience a more enjoyable Valentine’s Day,” the Voice reports. 

Irene de Ocampo at Elizabeth Gurney House says she is very thankful for the work of these volunteers and donors. “Our residents (moms and kids) truly appreciate your generosity.” 

All packages will be distributed to shelters this weekend.

{module NCM Blurb}