According to the UN, every minute 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution, or terror. You aren’t alone if you didn’t know June 20 is World Refugee Day. I‘m thankful for my job at FAC and that I get to play a very small role in submitting applications that will bring refugees to Canada. I‘m here as an advocate for refugees; to be a voice for those who aren’t heard. I want to bring awareness to the millions of refugees all over the world.
You may be asking, “Who is classified as a refugee?” The UN’s definition of a refugee is someone who has fled his or her home and country owing to a well-founded fear of persecution. Currently, there are 30 million refugees who fit that description – half of whom are just children.
Can you imagine having to fight for your life every day? Fighting for your children’s lives? Being denied basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment, and freedom of movement because of the colour of your skin, where you live, or disaster around you? Can you imagine having no freedom for years on end? Can you imagine seeing horrific violence, people killed around you? Millions face this every day with no hope of anything changing.
Making a Difference
It’s easy to live in our own comfort bubble and not give too much thought about what’s happening all around us. But that has to stop. It’s time for us to educate ourselves, to understand, and to start asking ourselves questions like, “How can I help?” – or even better, “How can I make a difference?”
It’s easy to be fearful about including people in your life who are different from you. Maybe you’re scared that you don’t have anything in common or that you can’t relate to someone else. From my experience living abroad, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Opening up your heart, your home, and your friendship circle to include people from different backgrounds, ethnicity, and cultures can only enrich your life.
Our family befriended an Iraqi family who had come to Canada as refugees. My favourite days were being in the kitchen with my new friend, having her teach me how to cook Iraqi food while I helped her with her English. I was reminded that while these newcomers to the country appreciated the time I spent with them, my own heart grew as I listened to their story about their life in Iraq.
We all have the responsibility of creating a more inclusive world where no one is left behind – where more love is given than judgment. We all have the power to make that happen by starting with the neighbours beside us, with people in our community, and with people in our workplace.
Thousands of refugees each year are coming to Canada – and many of them to Calgary. There are lots of practical ways you can get involved in the resettlement of newcomers. You could donate gently used adult and children’s clothing and footwear, as many refugees arrive with little to wear. You could donate furniture, small goods, and other household goods. Do you have spare time? You could help newcomers with English lessons, tutor children with homework, or show them how to navigate public transport or grocery stores or how to cook … All of the everyday things we take for granted. It may seem small to you but it will help the newcomers feel welcomed, connected, and included in their new Canadian home.
The Heart of the Message
Jesus is the perfect example of this. The heart of his message of inclusiveness is best summed up in Matthew 22:37-40:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'”
Jesus was radically inclusive. He called us to love one another and he was the perfect example of that as he honoured and cared about people of all backgrounds. Every person was equal in his eyes and deserves to be treated with the same kindness, love, and respect.
That looks different for each of us … It may be as simple extending friendship to people you encounter here in Calgary, or it may mean getting more directly involved in refugee sponsorship – like Briana.
I encourage you to take action on what you‘ve read today. Take a small step – any step. Inclusion and change starts with you and with me. Check out the challenge checklist below:
- Participate in various virtual refugee events arranged by the UNHCR
- Watch a film or read a book about the refugee experience
- Order takeout from an immigrant-owned restaurant
- Research the history of a refugee population living in our city
- Learn a phrase in the language of your refugee friend
- Share with someone why you love refugees
Questions? Want to learn more? Contact us – we’d love to talk about ways to step into the need together!
Meg serves with the Share team at FAC. Her heart beats fast for the opportunity to share hope with people around the world.