We keep saying it: “never again!” When I visited the Holocaust Museums in Jerusalem and in Washington, D.C, I could feel my heart saying “never again should something like this be allowed to happen”. Within a few months of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, people started asking how the global community could stand by and let this happen, and . . .“never again”. Partially as a result of this, Canada, with Lloyd Axworthy as the key champion, led the way to get the United Nations to adopt the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine that (supposedly) expanded the remit of U.N. peacekeeping forces.
But . . . it keeps happening again. Today, it’s Syria. Though of course “it” is also happening right now in South Sudan and Central African Republic, just to mention two others. The early chapters of Genesis illustrate for us the human tendency to seek power and use it to dominate. This is nothing new. The weapons may be contemporary but the human dynamics are ancient.
In the midst of this reality, Christ calls us to be agents of God’s healing, care, love, and restoration. Christians are not idealists: we know human nature. But neither are we fatalists, who give in to human nature. God is in the business of new creation – of forming a new human community – and we are called to participate in it.
Practically, we as Canadian Baptists have been planting seeds of God’s New Creation in the midst of the crisis in Syria. The Syrian conflict has entered its 5th year. It will not end soon. For a number of years through CBM’s partner in Lebanon we have cared for Syrian refugees, with food, medical care, and education. This experience of God’s love has caused many Syrian people to ask about the motivation of Lebanese Baptists, and has resulted in some people becoming followers of Jesus.
Now, there’s another way we can help. There is a growing desire amongst Canadian Baptist churches to sponsor Syrian refugees to come to Canada. This is part of a larger movement amongst multiple church denominations in Canada. I was recently in Ottawa at a meeting with the Canadian government to discuss how we can facilitate this growing interest in partnership with the government. Imagine if we could change the lives of 100 Syrian families (so, easily 500 individuals or more!) – families who would otherwise be trapped as refugees for years to come. If you are interested in this, please contact your regional denominational office (Canadian Baptists of Western Canada — Rod Olson; Canadian Baptists of Ontario & Quebec — Kevin Long; Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches — Paul Carline).
I’m writing this blog post as I participate in a Global Diaspora Forum, which is asking the question of how the Church can share God’s love to people “on the move”. There are many ways to doing this. Sponsoring a refugee might be a practical and very doable way in some cases.