Here’s what counts as big news: “Government Pledges to Bring 25,000 Refugees to Canada.”
Here’s what doesn’t: “Churches Pick Up the Slack in Government’s Inability to Help Refugees Launch Their New Lives.”
Yet a recent issue of Faith Today, the magazine of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, brings some very good, if not widely noted, news. Churches across the country are spotting and filling the gaps in the government’s program to help immigrants find their way into a very different culture.
The Welcome Project at Knox Church in downtown Toronto, for instance, has provided ESL classes, clothing, technological assistance—even shopping advice—for government-assisted refugees who “had a safe place to sleep, but little else.”
Over in the Maritimes, a church has helped a family with two daughters needing dialysis, while elsewhere in Ontario a church is assisting a family make the massive adjustment from illiterate herding to modern urban life.
These stories don’t feature the large statistics and tearful-greeting-at-the-airport optics of the government-sponsored news. What they do display, however, is faithful and neighbourly care, day by day, to people who desperately lack one or more crucial skills required to connect with, and contribute to, Canadian society.
All the more impressive, although also not noted in the major media, is that these Christians are offering such sustained assistance mostly to people who are not their co-believers. Few of these refugees are Christian. The majority are Islamic.
Most charities based in other religions don’t follow this pattern, but instead care for their own. We Canadians are used to religious charities caring for whoever needs help because of the historic role of Christianity in our culture. But people in other countries notice that Christian difference, as they have since Roman emperor Julian, a fierce opponent of Christianity, complained in the fourth century that Christians were causing him a headache because “these impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also.”
So hats off to Faith Today for partnering with “Context” and other faith-aware media to tell the stories of people generously providing what the government is not.
And a deep bow of respect for these kind souls who not only are helping newcomers to a better life, but by breaking down barriers and smoothing out on-ramps into Canadian life, are in fact preventing the bitter alienation that would result in a whole new world of trouble for all Canadians, as it has in Europe, Britain, and the United States.