Melodie Gabriel works as a development assistant for CNEWA Canada.
My colleague Antin and I travelled to the city of Toronto last month to attend the 2nd National Catholic Conference on Resettlement, organized by the Office of Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto, led by Dr. Martin Mark and his team. Various groups, parishes and dioceses from across Canada and the world gathered under the theme “With One Voice — We Are the Hope.”
People in resettlement work really do bring hope, from what I learned. In anutshell, those working in refugee resettlement help families forced to flee their home countries to settle in another country. By one estimate, over 43.7 million people worldwide are refugees.
In January 2010, CNEWA Canada was actively involved in the first conference, which focused on Iraqi refugees. CNEWA’s work is connected to those who resettle refugees, collaborating with the churches to support refugees and displacedpersons, mostly within the Middle East.
Those who attended the 2012 conference, though, work on the other side of the spectrum — sponsoring, welcoming and integrating refugees in Canada. CNEWA provides its expertise through analysis, contacts and reports to Canadian diocesan offices that require more information to promote their work.
The conference was helped under the leadership of Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and vice president of CNEWA Canada’s Board of Directors. Cardinal Collins had many nuggets of wisdom to share. Something I found intriguing was that he was given a small piece of rock from a Syriac Catholic church that was destroyed in Iraq; he keeps it on his desk as a reminder of his commitment to refugees. (You can watch part of the cardinal’s talk in the video below.)
Our very own Antin Sloboda gave a talk, sharing CNEWA’s expertise at facing the challenges of Christian minorities in the Middle East. There were also special guests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Catholic Migration Commission, and representatives from the bishops conferences of the United States and Canada — just to name a few.
Overall, this conference was a unique moment to learn, share, build a network and pray. I left with the profound conviction that amid all the hardship in our world, we are a beacon of hope bringing the light of Christ to the refugees who are seeking only to live normal lives in peace with their neighbors.