SASKATOON — An evening of awareness and fundraising was held March 6 in support of persecuted
Christians around the world.
Proceeds from the event went toward a newly established start-up fund to assist parishes interested in sponsoring refugees. The Sponsorship Fund has been named in honour of Victor and Lucille Granger of St. Bruno Parish in Bruno, who were also sponsors of the fundraising dinner.
The Bruno couple took the initiative of sponsoring the new fund as a way to respond to the refugee crisis, in which millions are fleeing from violence and persecution around the world, explained Victor. “We decided this was a way we could help out, and encourage parishes that can undertake sponsorships.”
“This fund will provide seed money to assist parishes in beginning the process of refugee sponsorship,” said Myron Rogal of the diocesan Justice and Peace Office. “This is such an important area of need in our society.”
East Indian cuisine, door prizes, displays, entertainment, children’s activities, videos and a program presenting information about the persecution and violence experienced by Christians in Pakistan were features of the third annual event, sponsored this year by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, Rock of Ages Church, Knights of Columbus Council #8215 and the Friends of Pakistan.
Nadeem Imtiaz Bhatti of Friends of Pakistan described life in Pakistan under Islamic blasphemy laws which permit widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.
He said that the dire situation facing religious minorities in Pakistan is not adequately recognized by the global community. At the same time, “even super powers find it hard to stop these brutal attacks,” he said. “Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used as an excuse to attack, persecute and terrorize Christians.”
Many Pakistani Christians have fled to other countries to escape persecution in their homeland, he said. Thousands have sought asylum in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand, and endure heartbreaking situations as refugees, Bhatti added.
“Many times they are not allowed to work or to attend school” or are kept in migration detention centres. “I plead with all churches,” said Bhatti. “Please sponsor refugees from these countries. Your help will change people’s lives.”
He expressed hope that more persecuted Christians can find a safe haven in Canada. “Canadians are the most generous people in the world.”
Until the end of April, donations can be made to the Victor and Lucille Granger Refugee Sponsorship Fund by contacting the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Saskatoon.