The Diocese of Toronto has once again made a major commitment to helping those in need, earmarking $500,000 for refugee work.
“It’s important for us to make a statement that we’re willing to make a substantial commitment that will make a difference,” said Archbishop Colin Johnson before Diocesan Council approved the amount at a meeting on Sept. 24.
Details of how the money will be spent have not been worked out. Archbishop Johnson said he will likely appoint a small group from Diocesan Council to make recommendations and report back to Council for approval.
He said the diocese will not directly sponsor refugees. Rather, he would like the money to be made available in the form of matching grants to parishes that want to sponsor refugees or work with other churches and outside groups.
“I want to see how we can build partnerships in order to do this because that creates community,” he said. “Bringing refugees to Canada is all about creating communities.”
Some of the money could also be used to support agencies in Canada and overseas that are working directly with refugees, he said. There are about 60 million people around the world who are either refugees or living in refugee-like conditions.
Archbishop Johnson said he hoped the funds would be used to assist refugees not only from the Middle East but from other parts of the globe such as Africa and Asia. He said there are refugees throughout the world who are eligible to come to Canada if local groups would sponsor them.
Churches in the diocese have a long history of helping refugees come to Canada, he said. In 1979, he was part of a parish group that sponsored a family from Vietnam, an experience that made a profound impression on him.
“When a refugee comes in, it makes a real difference not only in the refugee’s life but in the life of the sponsoring families,” he said. “When we sponsored a Vietnamese family, we were incredibly changed by the process.”
Similar to that time, churches all over the diocese are responding to the current refugee crisis, he said. (See related story on Page 3.) “We are doing this out of our faith commitment, that God has created all of us and that all people have dignity. That’s part of our baptismal vows. The story of refugees and finding a place in community is part of our biblical story. According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus himself was a refugee. This is not a new or novel thing but who we are.”
The money earmarked by the diocese will come from the Ministry Allocation Fund, a part of which is tithed each year for projects that are not covered by the diocese’s operating budget. Past recipients include Habitat for Humanity GTA to build affordable housing, the Council of the North for suicide prevention and the Diocese of the Arctic to rebuild its cathedral after it was destroyed by fire.
Ian McBride, the executive director of AURA (the Anglican-United Refugee Alliance), praised the diocese for its decision. “I think it’s a very good use of resources,” he said. “It’s human need in its various forms, and that’s where we belong. This also makes an enormous contribution to society. It’s in the best interests of all concerned and I applaud it.”
AURA, which is funded by FaithWorks, is the official sponsorship agreement holder on behalf of the diocese. It is able to set up refugee sponsorships, train sponsors and provide support throughout the sponsorship process.
Mr. McBride said his small staff has worked day and night to keep up with inquiries from parishes and groups seeking to sponsor refugees. In response, the FaithWorks Allocations Committee has approved a supplemental grant that has allowed AURA to hire an additional staff person for up to a year.