Please find attached a letter from the Catholic Bishops of Alberta to the Honourable Chris Alexander from the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories
13 November 2014
The Honourable Chris Alexander, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
Dear Mr. Alexander,
Re: Iraqi and Syrian Refugees
The situation in Iraq and Syria continues to deteriorate, with respect to the survival of religious minorities, especially Christians, who are being targeted by the Islamic State (also known as ISIL and ISIS). This situation has captured the attention of the media and many religious congregations, as well as the general public.
In June, the Montréal Gazette reported that an estimated 100,000 Iraqi Christians fled the Mosul Plain in several panicked waves as the ISIS swept east from the Syrian border, murdering, raping and kidnapping as it went. In every place the Islamic State conquered, it immediately issued an ultimatum to Christians repeating the stark choice they had given to Syrian Christians when they seized large parts of that country over the past two years: "Either, pay a huge ransom for their freedom, convert to Islam, or be killed." Although Christians have lived in this area for more than a millennium, this is their last stand in Iraq. They have faced the sword many times for their beliefs and, in the next few years, Christians will likely no longer be living in this area, with some living in Canada, the USA or Australia. "What we are living is the last chapter of an ancient story," said Father Rian, a Chaldean Catholic priest. Known as the cradle of civilisation, the area in the midst of the conflict is of considerable historical and current relevance to the Western world. The current situation in Iraq and Syria is not only very serious for religious minorities, especially Christians, but also of considerable relevance to the Canadian government, which continues to be very supportive.
We acknowledge that your department has raised estimated immigration increases for 2015. Given the situation in the Middle East, we suggest that Canada could also commit to doing more for refugees:
- Bring in an additional 10,000 refugees, that is, some 10% of the 100,000 to which the UN High Commission (UNHCR) has committed;
- Expedite the processing of current applications submitted by religious minorities from Iraq and Syria; and
- Allow applications from displaced persons from Iraq and Syria, while still in their own country living in refugee-like situations.
We believe that this is not much to ask as the need is great! We stand ready to help. Your office will be aware, for example, that the Diocese of Calgary and the Archdiocese of Edmonton, with the assistance of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and Edmonton's Catholic Social Services respectively, have over time assisted thousands of refugees to come to Canada. We can continue to offer this much needed support.
We are available for further discussion of these important issues, and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your officials.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
Most Reverend Frederick Henry
Bishop of Calgary
Most Reverend Gregory J. Bittman
Auxiliary Bishop of Edmonton
Most Reverend Gerard Pettipas CSsR
Most Reverend David Motiuk
Bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton
Most Reverend Mark Hagemoen
Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith
Most Reverend Paul Terrio
Bishop of St. Paul
Catholic Bishops of Alberta/ Northwest Territories
cc. Alberta Members of Parliament
Fariborz Birjandian, Executive Director, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS)
Stephen Carattini, CEO, Catholic Social Services
The world has heard, with deep concern, the news of the terrible earthquake, 7.8 on the Richter scale, that hit Nepal during the night of Friday April 24. The epicenter of the quake was only 80 km from the capital, Katmandou. It appears that the destruction was widespread. It is being reported that over 4,000 people have died and even more have been injured. The number of victims is expected to increase significantly in the followi ng days. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its infrastructure simply cannot withstand an earthquake of this magnitude.
Since Saturday, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) has been in constant communication with the General Secretariat of (aritas lnternationa/is. Information received from Caritas Nepal, Caritas India and the Catholic Relief Services office in India, indicates that the country is experiencing a major crisis. CCODP has informed us that it has launched an appeal for donations to help in this humanitarian emergency. In fact, it has already posted a banner on the home page of its website and has activated a donation option for the earthquake in Nepal that you can find at the following links:
You may also contribute to this humanitarian relief outreach by sending your cheques through the office of the Diocese to CCODP - simply mark "Nepal."
Book Review: Suffering + Salvation in Ciudad Juarez by Nancy Pineda-Madrid.
This book's starting point is stark and unusual for a library like ours. For the past 20 years or so there has a campaign of terror against poor women in the city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, just across the border from El Paso in Texas. The number of murdered and missing women runs into the thousands, bringing untold suffering to families, friends, and the whole society. How does a community cope with such individual and social suffering? And how can the often deeply Catholic families make sense of these events? How do they, and we, understand salvation in the light of this brutality?
This work examines local devotional practices that form part of the response on behalf of those affected and it looks at it in the light of the theology of St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Anselm's work, Cor Deus Homo (Why God became Man), has been especially influential in forming the Christian view of salvation. Anselm theorized that God became a human and died to pay back what was due to the honour of God offended by sin. In reading Anselm in the light of the events in Ciudad Juarez the author argues that there is a need to reassess what salvation means; to look again at theological ideas that have long shaped our current views.
As the author states of the situation in Ciudad Juarez, 'this experience encourages us to realize that only some form of communion, or community, can possibly save us. It is a particular form of community that furthers salvation in history. And the church at its best, that is the church actively discerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, mediates the birth of this new community.'
This is a challenging and thoughtful read, academic in tone, but infused with the urgency.
To borrow the book from the CPC Library, email email@example.com
Every day in Calgary, families are living in shelters, at church Inns, or staying on friends’ couches. This situation continues to grow worse each year, as less and less housing is available. Currently, rental vacancies are down to less than one percent. On May 6, 2014 all shelters were full and no more church spaces were available. Nineteen families (33 children, 58 people in total) had nowhere to go. Fortunately, through the hard work and dedication of individuals at Brenda’s House and Alberta Works, 18 of these families were placed in hotel rooms overnight. Only one family was unable to access support through Alberta Works. These stats were pulled directly from family shelter daily reports.
This was due in part to the lack of church Inns available on May 6, a problem that happens all too often, especially during the summer months. As Catholics, we are called to action. We are called to rise up and do something to assist these families in their time of need. Our responsibility is emphasized many times in Bible passages, including “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did it for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” [Matthew 25:40].
For more than a decade, the greater Christian community, including numerous Catholic churches in Calgary, have been meeting the needs of the homeless through hosting Inns in their churches once or twice a month. An “Inn” hosts homeless families at the church, provides food, shelter and fellowship.
Over the summer months, the Diocesan Housing Committee will be working with churches throughout Calgary to host additional Inns to meet the needs of these families and ensure that no child has to sleep on the street or be apprehended by Child Welfare.
We are asking each of you to pray for these families. Please pray that spaces become available for every family in Calgary who is without affordable housing. We ask you to consider volunteering at an Inn over the summer, even if your church does not currently host one. We have made the volunteering process easier by having implemented a central phone line for information of where Inns are being held throughout the city. Please contact us by calling, (403) 536-5682.
For more information on how you can get involved with helping with this family homelessness crisis, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in becoming involved with the Diocesan Housing Committee, or want to know more about what the Diocese is doing, please contact email@example.com.
Written by Drew Brown, Co-Chair of RC Diocese Housing Committee and President of St. Jude’s Health Management Institute