SASKATOON — The large crowd at a St. Philip Neri Refugee Committee fundraising dinner Sept. 24 roared with delight when the winner of the evening’s 50-50 draw was announced.
Hearing that recently arrived Syrian refugee Kevork Kasarjian had won some $300 in the prize draw was an appropriate highlight for an evening filled with support for refugee sponsorship.
“I think Kevork loves Canada!” said refugee committee co-chair Sheila Flory with a smile.
Kevork and his wife Maral were among the hundreds attending the dinner and silent auction, which raised some $10,000 for the parish refugee committee’s ongoing sponsorship efforts.
The couple and their five children were welcomed to Saskatoon only one week before, on Sept. 17, co-sponsored by St. Philip Neri Parish and Maral’s cousin Carlo Arslanian of Saskatoon.
The Kasarjian family fled Syria in 2014 after their home was destroyed by a bomb, living in a refugee camp in Lebanon until they were able to come to Canada.
“There are 70 million refugees in the world today,” said refugee committee co-chair Dale Scott. “Everybody has heard of the Syrian refugee crisis that has been in the news lately, and in this country it has become a federal election issue. However, there are many other groups around the world who need our attention as well.”
Scott expressed appreciation to past and present members of St. Philip refugee committees, and all who have supported refugee sponsorship in the parish over the past 40 years.
“The way to help is to sponsor one family at a time,” said Scott. “That’s what St. Philip Neri Parish and the diocese has been doing since the Vietnamese refugee crisis of the late 1970s through the Kosovar crisis of the 1990s. The last three parish full sponsorships have been Muslim families from Sierra Leone, Iran and Iraq.”
Flory introduced Neeku and Sassan Hosseinzadeh of Iran, who were previously sponsored by the parish. She also introduced Shazia Hidayat, the friend of a Christian family of six from Pakistan being sponsored by the parish, who are expected to arrive next month.
“We are also expecting an Eritrean family of six that we applied for over four years ago,” Flory told the crowd. “We have a lot of busy work ahead of us, and you can see why we held the fundraiser today, to help with that work.”
Flory added, “I am totally overwhelmed by the tremendous support we’ve received for this event, and I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to everyone here for participating, and for those who donated.”
Christine Zyla, co-ordinator of the diocesan Migration Office at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, also brought greetings.
“Goodness, goodness, goodness — this has been the word that has been running through my mind all day today. The goodness of humanity, the goodness of people like you,” Zyla told the crowd.
“For all the horrible, really bad and difficult things that go on, we have these moments of brightness. The highest we can achieve as humanity is to reach out to one another and recognize that we are all connected. . . . It is still a beautiful world, and our beautiful family that has just arrived is certainly testimony to that,” she said.