“Our mission is that women learn that they are unique, loved by God, able to love and be loved, and ultimately reconcile with themselves, God and society.”
Sit Al Habayeb (Beloved Women) is a relatively new outreach ministry to Arab women in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who have found their way to Canada. These resilient women come from across the North Africa and Middle East region and are predominately Muslim.
Eliane Massaad, the founder and chair, first began this ministry in her home country of Lebanon, before her family immigrated to Canada over 10 years ago. In Beirut, the ministry flourished with over 300 women benefitting. When she moved to Canada, she saw the same need. “God gave me the promise that Beloved Women could be part of my life in Canada, too. So many Arab women in the GTA didn’t have any support group to help them adjust to Canadian life. Beloved Women could bring hope to refugee women in Canada the way it had in Beirut.”
Coming to Canada as a refugee is immensely challenging for anyone. There is new language, culture, food and customs to learn. The challenges are great especially for a woman who doesn’t have a job. “Children will be in school, a husband will find work and the woman is often left alone.”
Beloved Women comes alongside and helps Arab women understand their new Canadian culture and walks with them through all the things they need to learn. “It usually takes between two to three years to integrate in a new society and begin to feel at home …it is helpful to have a place where you feel comfortable and at home to share the needs and challenges of everyday life.”
Beloved Women provides that safe space for Arab women to tell their stories and find where they can get appropriate help, such as with health concerns, psychological needs, parenting challenges and other family issues. One mother left alone to care for her disabled child simply needed someone to talk to and a place where she could come and have respite for a few hours. Another woman had three children and was expecting her fourth. Her husband gambled and drank heavily and was abusive to her. The police were called, and so was Eliane. After the woman’s husband was imprisoned, Eliane provided care for the woman and continued to pray and share the gospel with her and the family.
So far, Beloved Women has helped to bring hope and healing to over 200 women in the GTA. “Our mission is that women learn that they are unique, loved by God, able to love and be loved, and ultimately reconcile with themselves, God and society.”
The organization now seeks to grow into a training centre where women can develop their abilities and reach their full potential. “Vocational training is a big need as most refugee women are poor …Arab women are amazing cooks and if they can somehow be helped to start a business (restaurant, catering, etc.), it would be helpful.”
Currently, Beloved Women runs programs in Milton and Mississauga, in spaces that are easily accessible by public transit. They are also exploring opportunities in other cities. Volunteers are always welcome, especially those who can help with children, games, teaching (such as sewing, quilting, makeup/nails or English conversation), photography, fundraising, etc.
Learn more at www.belovedwomenorg.com
ANNE DROST is CBM’s Central Canada Representative, helping local churches in Ontario and Quebec connect with God’s work in other parts of the world. She has served CBM for over 28 years in different capacities and continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of mission in any context.