Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Overjoyed at being wrong

I love it when I am proved wrong. I love it even more when the people of Grey Bruce step up and challenge the government and institutions of the day and say “We can do better.” 

In a September column I said, “Bringing a refugee family or families calls for great thought, prayer and consideration. I hope those who want to do the hard work will talk to those with experience, first. And perhaps what we can do best is to support the work of others with better access to supportive community and resources.” 

Boy, was my suggestion ignored. 

Very shortly after that column was published I heard that some of “old hands” at refugee and immigration sponsorship had called a public meeting to talk about what people could do. They were overwhelmed by the support. It turned out that there were many people in Grey Bruce, some from the most unlikely places, who wanted to find out more and do something positive to help refugees get a new start in Canada. 

The people who had been through refugee sponsorship shared their knowledge and experience. People found out about other groups. Bridges were built. Communication was established. Outreach into the community was made.  

Today, here is what I know. St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church has a family of 5 from Eritrea coming from a refugee camp in Ethiopia very shortly. The Lutheran Church in Owen Sound is moving forward. The Roman Catholic Diocese is providing leadership for the Catholic parishes' efforts. There is a group of five citizens in Georgian Bluffs who are hoping to sponsor a family. Conversation is under way among St. George's Anglican Church, Georgian Shores United Church and the local Muslim Association. There are also groups I have heard of in North Bruce Peninsula, Saugeen Shores and Meaford.  

A community meeting will be held Wednesday, November 18th at 7p.m. at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church to share information and to develop links and plans further.  

My own denomination has put more money into their refugee support program. In September, Toronto Conference committed $250,000 in $5,000 grants to United Church congregations who were planning refugee sponsorship. Within two weeks all of the money had been allocated to fifty groups across Canada and twenty one were on a waiting list. In early November the conference added $150,000 to remove any churches from the waiting list and then added $100,000 more, bringing the total to half a million dollars. 

I am very pleased to see people are stepping up with their time and talent and willing to live out the universal call to have love and care for their neighbour.  

I am pleased that the people of Grey Bruce are not intimidated by fearmongering, partisan politics and the fear of others or of someone different.  

I am pleased that Canadians are willing to do what we have always done; offer our best so that others can enjoy what we already have.  

And I am very, very pleased, Grey Bruce, that you have proved me wrong.  

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.