St. Augustine's Refugee Task Force

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St. Augustine’s has joined with several organizations in the Lethbridge Settlement Collaboration to sponsor Syrian refugee families.  The first of these is an extended family of 14 that includes several children.  Several members of the family are already here;  others have received their health and security checks and could arrive in the next several weeks.  Enough money has been raised to meet the recommended standards to support the family and housing for them has been secured.

In the coming days and weeks, volunteers will be needed to help with settlement preparations.  Professor Brian Black chairs the St. Augustine’s committee and represents the parish at meetings of the larger settlement collaboration.  For more information or to offer your support, please contact Brian at brian.black@uleth.ca or 403.327.8520.

The need is great and the Lethbridge Settlement Collaboration are hoping to support additional refugees going forward.  To offer financial support, donations can be made to St. Augustine’s Church, attention “Syrian refugee fund.”

Our Sponsored Family

At core of the family is a woman, currently studying at Lethbridge College, and her husband.  He is working in agriculture after having come to Canada as a refugee and then sponsoring his wife and their two young boys.  The remaining members of the family (her parents and several siblings and their families) are in Syria and in a refugee camp in Lebanon. 

The Crisis

Four million Syrians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the civil war in 2011 (source: UN Refugee Agency). This represents almost one quarter of the country’s population.  Most of those who have lost their homes are now in refugee camps designed to provide temporary shelter to much smaller numbers of people.

START  Background

The St. Augustine’s Refugee Task Force (START) was formed in September 2015 in response to a call to action by Canon James Robinson, “How Can We Obey the Royal Law?”  Although the Syrian refugee crisis had been ongoing for some time, a series of images that appeared in the media last summer brought home the issue for many at the parish.  Canon James responded by connecting the plight of our neighbours in Syria with Jesus’ parable of “The Good Samaritan,” and a fundamental principle in Christianity:  love your neighbour as yourself.  This continues to shape the work of START.  The aim is to do whatever can be done to help those in need, regardless of their ethnicity or cultural or religious background. 

To that end, START has been working with the Lethbridge Settlement Collaboration, including the University of Lethbridge, a group of local doctors, and Anglican Churches including St. Theodore’s (Taber), and The Church of the Ascension (Coaldale) to sponsor a Syrian family with ties to Canada. 

This work is made possible through the Mennonite Central Committee, who has allowed the Collaboration to use their agreement with the federal government to bring in privately sponsored refugees (PSRs).  It should be noted that these individuals must undergo the same vetting process that government assisted refugees (GARs) are required to.

Other Ways to Help

The Canadian federal government has extended its donation-matching program to February 29.

The following organizations provide on-the-ground support to refugees in Syria and surrounding countries:

Purchase a CD: Copies of a recording by pianist and START chair person Brian Black are now available for purchase!  The CD features works by composers Chopin, Schubert, and Debussy, with all proceeds going to the refugee fund.  The price of the CD is $20.00.  Please contact Brian for details at brian.black@uleth.ca or 403.327.8520.