Dear friends in the Christian community of Metro Vancouver:
In recent news about the Afghan people, countries bordering Afghanistan, most notably Pakistan, have begun to crack down on immigration from Afghanistan, arresting and deporting families, some of whom have been resident in Pakistan for decades. Life for Afghanis in Tajikistan has also become dangerous, with threats of deportation. For many, returning to Afghanistan is a death sentence.
You may know of the refugee outreach at St. John’s Vancouver Anglican Church. We at St. John’s sponsor one refugee family each year and pair with one refugee claimant family each year. As you well know, our planet is amid a refugee crisis, with more than 100 million displaced people as we speak, with numbers increasing every day.
As Jesus-followers, we are commanded to love our neighbours as ourselves, neighbours being people who don’t necessarily live in our geographical neighbourhoods, as illustrated in the parable of the good Samaritan. So, we try our best to respond obediently.
We are involved with several different refugee families who are with us and part of our community of faith, whether they are Christians or not. Our sponsorships have gradually grown over the years from families of two to four to six. As the families have become larger, so have our responsibilities. Because we are committed to welcoming and assisting these families, they need to live near to our church home in Vancouver. Hence, the expense of renting a home in Vancouver. Interesting!
Of course, once a sponsored family arrives to safety in Vancouver, their main concern shifts from their own safety and the safety of their children to the safety of their mother, father, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, still in great danger. Our first sponsored family was from Afghanistan, where their lives were threatened because they converted to the Christian faith. Since they arrived in 2019, they have been deeply concerned about their extended families.
In December of 2022, eight members of their family arrived in Vancouver, after having walked from Brazil. They had escaped to Brazil but found that they were not safe there. Sometime before that, we had been following another group of the same family, who had fled to Pakistan and then to Tajikistan, trying to escape persecution and death threats. There were 16 family members in this group.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, there were opportunities to fast-track Afghans to Canada. One member of our refugee committee applied on behalf of the 16 members of the displaced family. After extensive paperwork, and the help of a sponsorship agreement holder in Ontario, our government approved our sponsorship of the 16.
To sponsor refugees, a church must guarantee full support for the family for their first year in Canada. Though the number of people in the family was large, the number of dollars for their support was much larger. The St. John’s trustees approved the expense to be raised by the Refugee Committee. Then we waited for the family of 16 to arrive. It was nearly a year
before we heard that they would arrive at 5 pm, November 23 three weeks from our notification.
Accordingly, our Refugee Committee members are working around the clock to secure rental accommodation not far from Vancouver for this extended family of 16 that divides naturally into households of four, five and seven.
As we at St. John’s are in well over our heads, there are wonderful opportunities for members of the larger Christian community to help make life-changing improvements for people.
What can you do? There are still opportunities available.
- You can donate to the Refugee Fund on the St. John’s Vancouver website specifying ‘refugee fund.’
- You can donate furniture and household items by clicking here.
- You can pray for our newcomer friends who have suffered greatly and will soon be joining us in Vancouver.
- If you know of a landlord who might be willing to rent a suite to one of the households of four, five or seven of the 16, you could inquire and let us know of a positive response.
These people will be welcomed into the Christian community. Some speak English, others do not. Some are Christians, others are not. They are all loved by God and welcomed as friends.
Send questions, comments or referrals to [email protected].
Jonathan Baylis is a volunteer in the refugee outreach of St. John’s Vancouver.