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Over the last two years, Cedar Parkers have been responding to the growing global refugee crisis.
In 2014, we took part in our first Ride for Refuge, and sent the monies raised to two local non-profit organizations who work on the front lines of refugee support work here in Montreal; the Just Solutions Clinic run by the United Church’s Montreal City Mission, and Actions Refugies Montreal (ARM), an ecumenical non-profit organization, whose director is our own Paul Clarke.
As the crisis deepened over the summer and early fall of 2015, we renewed our efforts for the Ride for Refuge, and on October 4, over 100 people donated to our 16 Riders (age range 9 to 70+!) to raise $6500 to support the same two partners in mission support for refugees. But the strong call from God for us to do more was getting louder, so we began to prepare for a Syrian Refugee response meeting at which we would discern how we as a Caring Community might respond in a faithful, sustainable way to this human tragedy.
In October 2015, a meeting was held at Cedar Park to discern what that response might be. A member of our congregation, Megan Bradley, whose professional work focuses on forced migration, justice for refugees, began the evening with an analysis of the current crisis, sharing some statistics that are chilling. For example, did you know that the average time a refugee is forced to live in temporary shelter is 20 years? Did you know that even if war were to end tomorrow, the devastation in Syria is such that rebuilding will take decades, not months?
After some time spent exploring two Biblical texts about God’s call to protect the widow, orphan, alien and stranger (Deuteronomy. ) and Jesus parable of care in the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), the gathering spent time discerning our Caring Community’s faithful response.
After that meeting, the Congregational Board empowered a Syrian Refugee Response team to explore partnership with other faith groups, or with a Syrian family, to sponsor a refugee family. A small team was then formed and began its work to identify and sponsor a family.
Happily, Action Refugies Montreal (ARM) was soon able to match Cedar Park with a family waiting in Turkey for sponsorship. Following a happy and productive exploratory meeting with the family`s cousins, who are living in Montreal, the refugee response team enthusiastically approved the match, and the church board also gave its approval. The application process for government approval of the family is now under way, and the SRR team was pleased to learn that their application has been approved at the provincial level.
The family is from Syria: a father, mother and three boys ages (initially, now getting older) 18, 13 and 10. They are currently in Turkey after fleeing from their home in Syria (under bombardment) They are now registered as protected persons in Turkey. The parents speak English. The family has a long tradition of peaceful activism and thoughtful spirituality.
To introduce the family to Cedar Park’s congregation, a very successful and dramatic information evening was held on March 4. Those present had the privilege of being introduced to the sponsored family by two of their Montreal cousins through stories and photos. It became clear through the evening`s dialogue that the spirit and values of the family we are sponsoring are uniquely in harmony with the Cedar Park credo. And a hugely successful event was held on May 13, with the Montreal cousins of the family not only delighting guests with a Syrian dinner, but also making a well-received presentation on ‘everything you wanted to know about Islam but were afraid to ask.’
Cedar Park United is now preparing to receive and support this family on several fronts.
First, the response team is preparing a detailed settlement plan with Action Refugies Montreal and the Montreal family contact. Following completion of the settlement plan, a discernment process will match willing and able Cedar Park United volunteers to the various jobs to be done to help the family- before, during and following their arrival. We will be forming project teams in early 2017 to focus on developing support in areas such as finding suitable accommodation, furniture and household items, education, language skills, job search and money management. No physical items are being collected at this time due to storage constraints.
Second, the response team is continuing its fundraising efforts to ensure that the family is adequately supported in their first year in Canada. Your gift is much needed, appreciated and tax deductible. To donate go to . As of mid-December 2016, including the proceeds from the 2016 Ride for Refuge and the recent Christmas Choir Celebration the fund balance is at $37,400. Additional funds raised will be added to this amount and be available to support the family, if required.
There is much excitement, curiosity, good will, and learning going on with all involved in this important project. Please don`t hesitate to stop Andrea Nugent, Cathie Weldon, Sabra Ledent, Norman Jones, Pat Mayberry, or Ernie Bauer at Sunday coffee if you`d like to hear more. But be prepared to stay a little longer than you`d planned!
We will keep you informed of what comes next, and how you can be involved in this holy, healing work.