In the 1960s, CRC missionaries opened the Good Samaritan Refugee Center in Miami, Florida, to provide refugee families from Cuba with food and clothing. Supplies were donated by CRC members from all over North America and were sent to Florida through World Renew (then known as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee).
During the 1970s, Christian Reformed churches started to get involved in refugee resettlement in the United States and Canada on a larger scale, welcoming individuals and families from Vietnam. In Canada, World Renew has been part of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program since its inception in 1979.
The CRC’s ministry of resettlement has continued ever since. Through World Renew and other Sponsorship Agreement Holders, CRCs in Canada have welcomed families from all over the world, including Cambodian refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s, Karen refugees fleeing Thailand in the early 2000s, and, most recently, families from all over the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq. Similar waves of refugee resettlement have also taken place through Christian Reformed churches in the United States through a partnership between the Office of Social Justice and Bethany Christian Services.
Here are just a few recent accounts from refugees and the Christian Reformed churches that welcomed them:
In December 2012, significant changes were made to Canada’s refugee system that began to make resettlement more difficult for various classes of refugees. These changes caught the attention of the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and World Renew’s Refugee Resettlement Office. They observed diminishing refugee settlement rates; demanding new claim and appeal procedures; difficulties with a new “safe country” designation; and cuts to refugee health care that made vulnerable refugees more vulnerable yet. These CRC offices began to speak up about their concerns. Thankfully, there is hope that the changes that began in 2012 will be reversed. Links to two of the advocacy letters sent by these CRC offices to the Canadian government are provided below.
- Letter to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, December 2013
- Letter to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, January 2015
The theological underpinnings of the calling to welcome various kinds of immigrants were articulated in a report to Synod 2010 on “the issue of the migration of workers as it relates to the church’s ministries of inclusion, compassion, and hospitality” (Agenda for Synod 2010, pp. 536; see Acts of Synod 2007, p. 596).
In response to the report, synod adopted thirteen recommendations on areas including education and awareness, ministry of mercy and compassion, and justice and advocacy (see Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 875-79).
Synod calls CRC churches to take action in a variety of ways:
Christians should engage in thoughtful study and discussion of the economic, political, social, and spiritual issues involved in the church’s ministry with immigrant people. This can include the study of the 2010 Synodical Migration Report.
Following our scriptural calling to welcome the stranger, we demonstrate Christ’s love to the marginalized, offering assistance for needy immigrants and for their children in terms of financial assistance, food, clothing, and shelter.
We advocate for reforms to our immigration laws in the United States and Canada so that they may be fair, just, and equitable for immigrants, particularly for vulnerable populations such as refugees.