REGINA — Regina Multi Faith Forum’s member organizations have come together to sponsor a refugee family in a living example of what ecumenism is all about. “We wanted to demonstrate to the wider community that different faiths can work together and set an example to work such a humanitarian cause, “said Gagan Deep Singh, Regina Multi Faith Forum president.
The forum had never undertaken anything like this before, concentrating mainly on its initial purpose of promoting the understanding and acceptance of different faiths. It counts among its members most Christian denominations, several Eastern and Middle Eastern Faiths — including the Muslim and Jewish faith who are often seen as warring communities on the international scene.
Gagan Deep Singh said the members were canvassed to gauge interest and received a very enthusiastic response. “Because we had never done anything like this before we held a meeting with people who had experience, who advised us what to do,“ said Deep Singh. A committee was formed with Rabbi Jeremey Parnes of Beth Jacob Synagogue as chair.
“There are two groups involved,” said Parnes in an interview with the PM. “Multi Faith partnered with the Roman Catholic archdiocese because they are the agreement holder that makes it possible for us to do this without us having to go through all the hoops and paper work of getting our own agreement in place with government.” The committee began gathering resources, including money, and have pledges just under $27,000, $2,000 above what is considered the norm to provide for a family for one year.
They have not yet secured a residence for the family because the size of the residence depends on the size of the family and here the synagogue can help out because it has a settlement officer. “We (the synagogue) have a settlement agreement with the government to help settle newcomers. It’s for anyone not just Jewish newcomers.” The synagogue is one of several Regina organizations that offer settlement services.
The morning of the interview, Parnes was informed that a family has been offered to them. “They’re a family with grandparents, a daughter and two children aged about five and seven. The husband of the daughter disappeared about four years ago,” said Parnes.
He believes the family is Syrian and have been living in a camp in Lebanon, and have family already living in Regina. A meeting has been scheduled with the committee to see if this family is acceptable.
“Once the paperwork and everything has been approved I would imagine that the next available transport would mean that we could bring them in.” He doesn’t know exactly when that would be, but expects it could happen quickly.