Church calls for urgent action to address refugee crisis

A Syrian refugee from Aleppo holds his one-month-old daughter after arriving on a dinghy at the Greek island of Lesbos on September 3. Photo: Dimitris Michalaki/Reuters
A Syrian refugee from Aleppo holds his one-month-old daughter after arriving on a dinghy at the Greek island of Lesbos on September 3. Photo: Dimitris Michalaki/Reuters
Published September 4, 2015

In tandem with the global outpouring of sorrow over the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi on September 2, the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement calling Anglicans to a threefold response to the refugee crisis by bolstering aid, sponsoring refugees, and petitioning the government to increase its own efforts.

“In times past Canada has taken extraordinary measures to welcome refugees in crisis,” said a statement signed by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Adele Finney, executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the church’s relief and development arm. “It is time for us to do so again.”

The image of the Syrian toddler, whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey and later carried away by a policeman, has galvanized public support for a global response to the humanitarian tragedy facing 11 million Syrians displaced by four years of civil war. Alan Kurdi, his brother Galib, 5, and their mother, Rehana, were among a dozen refugees who died when their inflatable boat capsized in the Aegean sea. The father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived.

“The Turkish policeman is us. Alan Kurdi is our child. We knew that in the first moment we saw their pictures in today’s newspapers,” said the church’s statement. “We knew that in our gut, and when our heart’s cry poured out through our eyes. Our senses involuntarily respond and urgently demand that we act individually and as a human community.

Titled “A call to prayer and action,” the statement encouraged Anglicans to make their voices heard in Ottawa by lobbying political leaders to expedite the asylum-seeker application process and make it easier for Syrians with family already in Canada and commit to providing 10,000 resettlement places for government-assisted refugees “based solely on need.” The Canadian government has been criticized for prioritizing refugee claims by religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis. The vast majority of Syrian refugees are Sunni Muslim.

The statement also took the government to task for offloading its responsibility to resettle refugees to private citizens, and called on the government to uphold the principle of “additionality,” in which private sponsorship is understood to be an addition to, and not a replacement for, government efforts.

Hiltz and Finney also called on the government to reinstate full Interim Federal Health coverage for sponsored refugees and refugee claimants.

Canada has so far resettled 2,500 Syrian refugees since 2013, 1,600 of whom were privately sponsored by various groups, including churches. In January, the government pledged to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years, of which 6,000 would be private sponsorships. So far, 1,300 of them have been processed this year, a majority of them (1,100) private sponsorships.

In addition to advocating for greater government involvement, the statement outlined ways in which Anglicans could give practical help to Syrian refugees, through the PWRDF’s food aid partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (which allows those donating to specify Syria as the destination for their aid), and through private sponsorship of refugees.

Since it first started receiving donations for the crisis in Syria in January 2012, PWRDF has received a total of $80,155. Almost half of this money was raised in 2013, and despite the high profile of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, only $36,602 has come in since January 2014.

You can designate your online donation for “Syria Response.”

By Phone

For credit card donations, contact: Jennifer Brown 416-924-9192 ext. 355 1-866-308-7973

Please do not send your credit card number by email or fax.


By Mail

Please make cheques payable to “PWRDF,” mark them for “Syria Response” and send them to:

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund

The Anglican Church of Canada

80 Hayden Street

Toronto, Ontario M4Y 3G2


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