Out of Vancouver comes a heart-rending and perhaps enraging story. The oh-so progressive and inclusive St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church to their credit (or discredit) contributed not a little money to import a lovely refugee family. But that did not have a happy ending:
The 30K/ 30Day project on Bowen Island through St. Andrews- Wesley set out to raise $30,000 to bring Syrian refugee families to Vancouver. They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. The money they raised paid for Ali’s brother and his family to come to Canada.
And an extra $15,000 was raised to bring Ibrahim Ali and another brother.
“It would mean they could have a family reunion along with family that is in Burnaby,” was the pitch.
At 1 in the morning, last summer, the body of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen was found in Burnaby’s Central Park. The last sight of her was on the security camera of a Tim Horton’s. After over a year of searching, as her photo in a sailor suit looked out from the TV news, posters and flyers, after hundreds of interviews and tips, the case broke wide open.
St. Andrews- Wesley’s gift to Canada was arrested for her murder. That extra $15,000 had paid for a little girl’s life.
Read more here. My point in bringing this up is not to address the politics of refugees and immigration, but to present an object lesson the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) must consider. I do not think ACNA has any churches as sold out to the social justice gospel as St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church. But there are a few parishes, organizations, and at least a diocese or two in ACNA that are very committed to refugee and immigrant ministry.
Now certainly we should minister to refugees who are refugees indeed and to other immigrants. But we should not enable wrong behavior such as illegal immigration, deceptive refugee claims, or otherwise taking wrongful advantage of host countries or even preying on them. If that seems harsh, remember that St. Paul wrote that assistance for widows should go to those who “are widows indeed” and that assistance to the poor should not go to those who are able-bodied but unwilling to work. Part of his reasoning was to avoid enabling sinful behaviors.
Likewise, we should not enable the sinful conduct of illegals and of faux refugees. But I fear some ACNA parishes and organizations are not being as careful as they should be. Someday the result could be as awful as in Vancouver. And then ACNA would be found to have enabled awful crime. ACNA could even be found with blood on its hands.
I do not have easy answers to prevent this. But perhaps the College of Bishops could give firmly worded guidelines and instructions in line with St. Paul’s above instructions about church charity. Some in ACNA may still chose to disregard wise guidelines, but that would then be on them, not on ACNA as a whole. And any wise steps to avoid enabling can only do good.
But for now, the attitude of much of ACNA towards immigrants and refugees seems not that much different that that of St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church. If that continues, it will only be a matter of time before a similar awful result.