With ISIS attacking countries in the Middle East like Syria, many citizens have been forced to leave their homes, taking with them only what they could pack.
The Canadian government has pledged to bring 10,000 Syrians to Canada by the end of 2015.
Many people have filed to sponsor some of these refugees from individuals, to whole families seeking a new life.
Residents in Nakusp would like be part of this.
The Robertson Memorial United Church has formed a committee to sponsor refugees. They would like to sponsor a whole family, but it’s expensive.
“We’re going to need a lot of assistance from the community itself, from some of the bigger businesses, hopefully, to help out,” said Hans Sparreboom, head of the church’s committee.
“It takes, I believe, $50,000 for a year to sponsor a family, and the government pays half of that, if I’m correct. As a group, as a church here, we have to come up with $25,000, and that’s why we’re looking for other input.”
The church is interested in getting together with other groups to help raise the money.
“I don’t know if there are other groups in Nakusp looking at it,’ said Hilary Bitten, minister at the United Church. “Hopefully there are, because really, $25,000 is not enough money to save people’s lives. Sometimes I think we forget how lucky, and how blessed we are.”
Sparreboom said it’s not just a matter of bringing the refugees here. There needs to be backup support, hopefully someone that can translate, along with people to show the Syrians around, to let them know where the important things are, such as banks, grocery stores, and health services.
“It’s not just ‘You’re here, here’s your place, good luck’. It’s an ongoing process.”
He doesn’t think it’s an impossible goal.
“We did it with the Vietnamese refugees, we can do it again.”
Churches in towns smaller than Nakusp have agreed to sponsor refugees.
“The United Church in New Denver decided they wanted to sponsor, and they’re just this little church, with about six to eight people,” said Bitten. “They held a community meeting and said ‘Okay folks, do you want to help us?’ and from what I understand, there was huge assistance, and they are going ahead and sponsoring.”
While many people agree with sponsoring the Syrian refugees, others question why can’t Canadian citizens take care of their own first.
“Definitely, we need to be taking care of those close to us that are in need, and we try to do that,” said Bitten. “But the whole world now is so close, if we could just get rid of some of the boundaries that we keep putting up, then hopefully we wouldn’t have some of the issues that the Syrians are having.”
“There isn’t ‘them’ and ‘us’, it’s only us. There are no races except the human race. Why say ‘Ours first, and then theirs, maybe.’ No. It’s us.”
When asked about their thoughts on people saying the Syrians should go back to where they came from, both Bitten and Sparreboom had an interesting response.
“We all should go back to where we came from, because we’ve taken the land from the indigenous people, so let’s go back,” said Sparreboom. “I understand people’s fear. I do not agree with their fear. I do not support their fear, but I understand it, because we have been taught to fear.”
Bitten doesn’t doubt the group will receive flack for what they’re trying to do. Indeed, she’s already received some, but in no way has it been a deterrant.
“As Christians, I do not believe that we can turn our back and walk away from that kind of pain and suffering, or to any, but especially in that magnitude.”