by Jamie Swift
Recently a parish group in Kingston managed to secure a sponsorship agreement so that we are now in position to welcome a family of Syrian refugees to our community. This is necessary work for Canadians. But it’s insufficient.
Because the recommitment of Canadian forces to Iraq – and now into the cauldron of the Syrian civil war — has not been complemented by any meaningful diplomatic or humanitarian efforts on the part of Canada’s government.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
To that end, the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that asks more of our government.
The two dozen church leaders who signed it represent this country’s mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as some smaller denominations that include Mennonites, Quakers and The Salvation Army.
For decades now, Canadians of many faith traditions have been deeply involved in refugee sponsorships. To date, this has not been a priority for the Conservative government. The brutal civil war in the region has driven an estimated 10 million people from their homes, creating three million Syrian refugees, according to the United Nations.
The familiar sterility of television images cannot mask the unfolding human and environmental tragedies that daily scar the lives of millions in Syria and Iraq. The cost of Canada’s current military intervention will soon be over $500 million. It will do little or nothing to bring peace to the troubled region.
“Military intervention will not bring an end to the conflict without a broader internationally sanctioned strategy for achieving sustainable peace in Iraq and Syria,” explained the church leaders’ letter.
“Members of our parishes and congregations across Canada, as well as other organizations and volunteers, are eagerly waiting to receive Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Accordingly, we urge you to consult with the Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association to discuss how to coordinate a response in Canada to the refugee crisis.”