The Hebrew scriptures are deeply marked by the experience of displacement. The story of the exile of Jacob’s descendents in Egypt, their time of wandering in the desert after being delivered from slavery, and, later, the deportation of a large part of the population of Jerusalem to Babylon, all became part of the self-understanding of the ancient Israelites. These stories of being uprooted and endangered in unfamiliar lands influenced the ethical teaching of the scriptures; frequently, the Israelites are reminded of their obligation to care for the stranger and the exile, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19). Care for the displaced person is a priority in many Old Testament texts, not simply as an act of charity, but out of a sense of identity with the outcast. Continue reading →
A Review of Benedek Fliegauf’s Film, Just the Wind
When thinking of the refugees who come to Canada every year, Europe likely isn’t the point of origin you would picture. But in 2011 the largest number of refugee applicants came from Hungary, and almost all of them are Roma. Immigrating and building a life in Canada is not easy, and likely will get harder as Bill C-31 is implemented. But for many Roma, going back to the alternative in Hungary in unimaginable.
A new film, Just the Wind, which had it’s North American premiere at TIFF, follows the life of a fictional Roma family living in Hungary, waiting to join their husband and father in Toronto. Continue reading →
Toward A Biblical Theology of Church Sanctuary in Canada
The date has been set. The votes have been counted. The deportations will likely begin in January.
On June 28th, the Government of Canada signed into law Bill C-31, the so-called Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act. Under the guise of reforming unfair queue jumping and eliminating what Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenny has termed “bogus refugees,” this new legislation will streamline the current application process, moving away from a reliance upon panels of human rights experts, and concentrating more power in the hands of the Minster.
Under the new legislation, refugees seeking asylum in Canada will have fifteen days to submit a fully researched application in order to qualify for refugee status. Refugees from countries the Minister of Immigration designates, as “safe” – a designation not defined or regulated by the terms of the law but made under the Minister’s personal discretion – would then be deported from Canada with little hope of appeal. Moreover, while such refugees are in Canada, they will be ineligible for health care coverage, denying insulin to diabetics, and preventing pregnant women from having access to doctors or midwives during birth. Continue reading →
There are some places in our world so evil, that the very ground you walk upon can drain you of hope. Places where cruelty is the norm, where persons are transformed into numbers, and where good people say nothing.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is one of those places. While the deceptive grass now hides the crimes committed in the name of the nation, you don’t have to dig too deep before you find the ashes. Continue reading →
A review of Frank Anthony Spina’s The Faith of the Outsider: Exclusion and Inclusion in the Biblical Story, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2005, 206 pages.
It is expected that on June 29th, Bill C-31, the so called Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act, will be signed into law, paving the way for the deportation of those it designates as unwanted outsiders, including victims of persecution and torture. As Mary Jo Leddy, theologian and founder of Romero House claims, “this may very well become the civil rights issue of our times.” If Leddy is correct, it follows that no theological theme could be more important for churches in Canada to reflect upon then the relation between the insider and the outside in the biblical witness. Thankfully, Frank Anthony Spina’s book, The Faith of the Outsider: Exclusion and Inclusion in the Biblical Story, does just that. Continue reading →
Anglicans kick their political theology up a notch
Immigration lawyer Mitchell Goldberg speaks out against Bill C-31 on the steps of Quebec City’s Anglican cathedral. Photo courtesy of Bruce Myers.
In March I wrote an article for The Tyee called “Occupy the Pews,” exploring the idea of prophetic ministry. That’s when members of a church apply Christian teachings to the world around them, which often means confronting uncomfortable contradictions, speaking truth, and challenging power.
Effective prophets, like Jesus of Nazareth, tend to have short careers.
I argued that with its clear values and existing infrastructure, the Anglican Church of Canada should be a powerful organ of progressive social change. Yet this impulse is often stymied by the practicalities of institutional survival. The Church struggles constantly to reconcile its spiritual calling with real-world politics and economics.
Those challenges continue, but as spring arrives across Canada there are signs of stirring. Continue reading →
Last year, while working alongside refugee claimants, I held a small child in my arms and looked on as her parents stared at me in disbelief. In their country people don’t hold their children, they run over them with their cars or throw Molotov cocktails through their windows. So when they saw me showing attention and love to their child they were speechless, and I have to admit, so was I. I had never encountered others who had been so palpably scared by deep-seeded racism that it forced them to flee their homes and come to Canada, and this has been just one of my experiences with the Roma. Continue reading →