Church representatives from across southern Ontario gathered in March to learn more about the intersection of safe church and refugees.
About 55 people attended the 17th annual Inter-Classis Safe Church Conference at Waterloo (Ont.) Christian Reformed Church. They came from classes Chatham, Hamilton, Huron, Niagara, Quinte, and even Lake Superior. This annual event aims to equip church leaders, Safe Church representatives, and volunteers in their work and decision-making.
This year’s focus was on refugee sponsorship and how safe church policies and practices can be established to serve both refugees and the churches sponsoring them. Workshop topics included insurance issues, dealing with cultural differences and trauma, and becoming a trauma-informed congregation.
A growing number of Christian Reformed churches are sponsoring or mentoring refugees. Many have questions about how to protect refugees and new immigrants, make congregations safe places for them to be, and understand the trauma experienced by refugees.
The day began with Kurdish Iraqi refugee Asmaa Cober sharing her story to help participants begin to understand the refugee journey. She later led a workshop on some of the differences between Eastern and Western cultural values and practices, incorporating stories, facts, and images.
“I think people felt they’d been given good ideas—what to include in policies, challenges, what to be aware of culturally—practical tips,” said Atie Ott, one of the organizers and the chair of the Classis Huron Safe Church Team.
The conference is held each year on the first Saturday in March, usually at Waterloo CRC. “It’s a good way for people not just to learn things—that’s very important—but also to socialize and talk with others doing the same type of work,” said Ott.