A refugee is a person who has fled their country because of persecution, war or violence.
Jesus’ early days on earth were as a refugee, after his parents fled to Egypt to escape Herod. In both the Old and New Testaments, God calls us to care for the vulnerable and specifically to show compassion to the foreigner or stranger. He reminds the people of Israel, “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).
God instructs his people in Leviticus 19:33-34, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong… you shall love him as yourself.”
Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:34-36, saying that when the righteous feed and welcome “the least of these” who are hungry, thirsty and a stranger, their actions serve Christ.
The EFC supports a video training program for churches called Welcome Church
and facilitates an annual event each June called World Refugee Sunday
. It also offers a free download called Welcome the Stranger: A Canadian Church Guide to Welcoming Refugees
and has drafted responses to frequently asked questions
Behind the scenes the EFC facilitates a Refugee Resettlement working group
of denominational Sponsorship Agreement Holders, leaders of refugee-support and resettlement agencies and those who engage with government on this issue. This is the group that produced the Welcome the Stranger
Many Canadian churches are sponsoring refugees through private or joint private-government sponsorship, in response to refugee crises in the Middle East and elsewhere. Churches are also helping government-sponsored refugees across Canada to resettle. Some denominations are Sponsorship Agreement Holders
and are able to co-ordinate private sponsorship of refugees.
Canada has received approximately 26,000 refugees annually over the last 10 years, from dozens of countries around the world.
Congregations can now take advantage of a video training program called Welcome Church
. The EFC recommends this resource and helped develop it.
The EFC helps refugee partnerships by facilitating the Refugee Resettlement working group
of denominational Sponsorship Agreement Holders. This group includes those directly involved in refugee sponsorship, leaders of refugee-support and resettlement agencies and those who engage with government on this issue. (See its answers to frequently asked questions
Partners in the working group have published a practical resource to help private sponsors welcome and settle individuals and families into a new life in Canada. It’s called Welcoming the Stranger: A Canadian Church Guide to Welcoming Refugees
(free 68-page PDF, October 2020). The EFC recommends this resource and helped develop it.
The EFC also supports World Refugee Sunday
, an annual event each June.
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The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) reported in early 2022 that 89.3 million people globally, or one in 112, have been displaced from their homes. Over half of these refugees are children and youth under the age of 18. A refugee is defined as someone who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Canada has a history and an international reputation as a welcoming nation to refugees.
In order to gain protection in Canada, a refugee must either apply for refugee status overseas or claim asylum within Canada. The government provides support for those in the Government-Assisted Refugees Program. These refugees apply overseas and are referred to Canada by the UNHCR.
Refugees may also be referred to Canada under the Private Sponsorship Refugee Program, where sponsors commit to support them for one year. Some Christian denominations are Sponsorship Agreement Holders, and are able to apply to be private sponsors of refugees.
Canada also has a joint private-government program called the Blended Visa Office-Referred program. Under this program, a refugee is referred for resettlement by the UNHCR, and then matched with a private sponsor. The government of Canada provides up to six months of income support, and private sponsors provide another six months of financial support and up to a year of social and emotional support.
Other streams for sponsorship include the Groups of Five Program, Community of Sponsors Program and the Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program for refugees with special needs.
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) speaks and acts on behalf of forcibly displaced people at the United Nations. It also raises awareness among churches through World Refugee Sunday, and supports and endorses the Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP) a WEA Global Partner. Together with the RHP, the WEA offers a variety of resources and helpful connections to empower churches to effectively welcome and serve refugees.
Canada signed the United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees in 1969.
God calls us to care for those who are vulnerable. People who have left their country, fleeing persecution, are extremely vulnerable. They leave homes, jobs, extended family and a familiar culture behind. Many spend significant amounts of time, sometimes several years, in a refugee camp. More than half of all refugees are children.
In both the Old and New Testaments, the people of Israel and followers of Jesus were commanded to care for the foreigner, the widow, the orphan and the poor. One of Jesus’ parables tells us that when we serve the vulnerable in our society, we are serving him (Matthew 25:34-36).
God reminded his people to show compassion because they had been travellers and strangers themselves (Deuteronomy 10:19). We show compassion because God has been compassionate to us.
Assisting refugees is one way that we show love to our neighbour. Jesus taught that loving our neighbour is the second greatest commandment, after loving God. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that our neighbour is anyone who is in need.
- For peace and peacemakers in war-torn, violent regions.
- For refugees’ essential needs to be met and for safety for the most vulnerable.
- For resettled refugees to find hope, community, security, and healing.
- For Canadian churches to have the needed resources to support individuals and families.
- For agencies serving refugees around the world.
- Intentionally welcome refugees into your community
- Assemble a group to take the video training program Welcome Church
- Offer friendship, community and emotional support to refugees.
- Offer practical help with everyday tasks.
- Contact your denominational leadership regarding how your church might sponsor a refugee
- Work collaboratively with a group in your area that is privately sponsoring refugees. See the EFC’s Refugee Resettlement Initiative page for more details. Check our list of Sponsorship Resources.
- Contact your local MP to voice your support for Canada’s refugee sponsorship programs.
- Observe World Refugee Sunday each June in your church.