They left in the dead of night while no one was watching. That’s often how three people, each with their own stories and their own dreams become nothing but numbers: three people, lost in a sea of eighty-two million displaced persons around the globe. They’d already been shuffled around the country because of an ambiguous ‘census’ the colonial government had imposed, but this time things were different. This time they faced a well-founded and personalized fear of persecution. The puppet king was convinced that this family and their child posed a real threat to his reign and dynasty.
They fled on foot to Egypt. Rather than risk the highway where they would certainly be stopped they took a back road. You could hire a smuggler there to get you across the border if you had the cash: you just had to trust that you’d found an honest smuggler.
Mary and Joseph traded off carrying the child on their back the whole time. He was old enough to walk by now but they’d had to leave so quickly there was no time to find him proper shoes, not for wandering the cold desert in the darkness of night. Besides it was faster this way. Every step they took brought them farther away from the present danger of the mad king, but it also led them deeper and deep- er into a void they weren’t sure they’d ever be able to escape.
Jesus was a refugee. It was one of his earliest identities: Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Counsellor; those ones had been promised long before; but Refugee? No one saw that one coming. It makes me wonder what his life as an adult would have been like without that experience. Starting out as a stranger in a strange land has an impact on the person you become. When your family doesn’t know the language or the customs, and when everything familiar is locked out of reach by the threat of violence, you can either develop a great bitterness or a great empathy. No one could hold you responsible for either of those, really, but it’s that sort of empathy that can change the world. It’s that sort of empathy that led to the cross. It’s that sort of empathy that becomes our own calling in the life of the Kingdom.
If you’re thinking today about the work of refugee resettlement and you want to do something but aren’t sure where to start, here are 5 ways you might consider getting involved.
Reach out to your local Settlement Providing Organization. The Interior has a number of SPOs who provide vital supports for newcomers. Many of their programs rely on community volunteers.
Fundraise: A significant financial commitment is needed to support a family’s arrival in Canada. If you have a local Constituent Group, help support them with their fundraising. Or find out how you can donate directly to the Diocese for the work of refugee resettlement.
Engage with anti-racism efforts in your community. Many new immi- grants face barriers to settlement that lie far beyond their control. Their efforts are often hindered by attitudes of protectionism and xenophobia. Get to know the cultural groups in your town or city.
Form or join a constituent group. If you’re committed for the long haul and are ready to give time, energy, and money to support refugees then the work that you may be called to is the front-line work of resettlement.
Pray for refugees. The power of the church is Creation engaged in prayer. Beseech God, each and every day, for a resolution to war, violence, discrimination, and persecution of any kind. Intercede on behalf of others. Learn the names of newcomers in your midst and pray for them and for the people they’ve had to leave behind.