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By Peter Novecosky, OSB

Abbot Peter Novokosky

Addressing a global tragedy

The refugee tragedy in the Middle East is tearing at the hearts of people around the world.

How to respond as a “have country” is becoming a political football for political leaders in Canada, as they play to various constituencies in view of next month’s federal election.

Churches are taking a lead in appealing to their members for help and in using this moment to become educated about the Middle East conflict.

In an unprecedented gesture Sept. 6, Pope Francis appealed to every Catholic parish, religious community and sanctuary in Europe to take in a family of refugees. He set the example by hosting two families in parishes inside the Vatican.

A Reuters news story reports resistance and fear in Europe about accepting these immigrants.

When Catholic monks in the village of Ladce in Western Slovakia proposed housing 30 families of Christian Syrian refugees in an empty monastery last month, local opposition forced them to retract the offer. Residents in the predominantly Catholic town of about 2,600 people signed a petition complaining that the building was too close to a school. One resident said that “Syrian Christians are not like Slovak Christians.”

No doubt, the same attitude is prevelant in Canada. On the other hand, since a majority of those fleeing violence in places like Syria and Afghanistan are Muslim, the pope’s call is a unique opportunity to improve Christian-Muslim relations at a grassroots level.

Both Canadian and American bishops are calling their citizens to become informed about the tragedy.

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, makes five suggestions to address “this overwhelming and complex problem”: support a refugee family, donate, get politically involved, be informed, and combat prejudices and fears. See the CCCB website:

The U.S. Catholic Relief Services website lists seven tangible actions ”to make a difference in the lives of people who have left their homes behind due to violent and difficult situations.”

The first is Learn More. The website says, “The more you learn about this crisis, the more you’ll understand its underlying causes and can spread the word. Continued warfare in Syria, and violence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, has contributed to the surge of refugees from those countries, while deteriorating economic conditions in places like Sub-Saharan Africa has led people to Europe in search of a better life. 

Other tangible actions are donate, fundraise, advocate, use social media, pray, and support refugees locally.

Development and Peace networks with its Caritas partners in Europe to bring relief to thousands of people who are trapped in limbo as they try to escape war, poverty and repression. D&P has committed $50,000 toward the relief efforts of Caritas. This includes food, shelter and health assistance. 

Meanwhile, the Prairie Messenger gives its readers up-to-date and expert information on the unfolding tragedy. No easy answers are in sight.