Concern for Refugees on Both Sides of Border

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Leaders in the Christian Reformed Church in both the United States and Canada are calling on church members to contact their elected representatives to help protect refugees and are calling congregations to prayer on March 12.

On March 6, the Trump administration in the U.S. released a rewritten executive order on refugees enacting a 90-day suspension of all visas for nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, halting refugee resettlement for 120 days, and lowering the number of refugees the U.S. admits from 110,000 to 50,000 this year, the lowest goal in U.S. history.

In response, several denominational leaders issued a statement about the new executive order, citing several Bible passages exhorting Christians to hospitality. “It is clear that our church has been called by Scripture and our own unique history to the work of welcoming refugees, and the need to welcome has never been felt more deeply than today,” the statement said. “The CRC has long been a church quick to welcome refugees. And in fact, many members of our churches came as refugees themselves.”

The leaders are concerned that a pause in the resettlement process will effectively cripple the future of refugee resettlement in the U.S. “In the midst of the biggest refugee crisis in recorded history, the notion that the U.S. would reduce the number of refugees it welcomes by more than half is unacceptable, and it threatens to lead other countries to follow suit to grave consequences for so many who have no other option for survival.”

The statement was signed by Colin Watson, director of ministries and administration; Darren Roorda, Canadian ministries director; Mike Hogeterp, director, Centre for Public Dialogue; Reggie Smith, director, Offices of Race Relations and Social Justice; Mark Stephenson, director, Disability Concerns; Moses Chung, director, Christian Reformed Home Missions; Gary Bekker, director, Christian Reformed World Missions; and Carol Bremer-Bennett, director, World Renew-U.S.

A call to action on the website of the CRC’s Office of Social Justice said reducing the number of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 is a moral failure. “We cannot remain idle; in the name of Jesus, we are called to welcome the stranger as if it is Christ himself. Congress must hear loud and clear that Christians around the U.S. oppose these actions.”

In Canada, the CRC has joined other churches asking the Canadian government to review its Safe Third Country Agreement. The agreement, which has been in effect between Canada and the U.S. since 2004, states that refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they land in.

In recent months, many refugees from the U.S. have been crossing the border into Canada. According to the CRC’s Centre for Public Dialogue (CRCPD), this trend demonstrates that because of recent refugee policy developments in the U.S., including recent Executive Orders, not all refugees feel safe there.

A letter to Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship from the Canadian Council of Churches expressed concern that refugees are risking their lives in winter conditions to cross into Canada. “Due to the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, refugees are being prevented from applying for and receiving asylum in Canada,” it said. The CRC in Canada is a member of the council.

While Canada’s refugee policies have been more accommodating, a recent poll showed that Canadians are becoming more negative about the refugees entering the country.

An action alert from the CRCPD urges church members to contact their Members of Parliament asking for a review of the agreement.

Denominational leaders are calling all congregations to prayer on Sunday, March 12, 2017, to lift up government leaders and refugees around the world who are so gravely impacted by decisions like these.

“We are in the midst of the largest global refugee crisis in memory,” they said. “This is not the time to close our doors and end our welcome; this is not the time for us to be silent.”

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

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