The world’s focus is on the refugee crisis in Ukraine, but Mennonite conferences in Canada, including the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, don’t want people to forget the needs of Afghan refugees.
That’s why they are appealing to their churches to help them bring 100 Afghan Christian refugee families to Canada.
The appeal is being organized through the Canadian Council of Anabaptist Leaders, made up of leaders from five Anabaptist conferences, including the CCMBC.
They are working with Mennonite Central Committee Canada, which has a refugee sponsorship agreement with the Canadian government, to bring the Afghan Christian refugees to Canada.
The Canadian government has promised to bring 40,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees to this country, including translators, educators, athletes, women and girls, lawyers, activists and Christians.
But while Canadians are stepping up for many of those people, “nobody is advocating for Afghan Christians. If Christians in Canada don’t do it, nobody will,” said Tim Dyck, executive director of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, who is helping to organize the appeal.
These people are all fairly new believers, he said of the tiny Christian minority in that country. Many converted to Christianity during the time of freedom that followed the U.S. invasion in 2001.
After the takeover by the Taliban last August, many fled to other countries such as Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia or the Emirates for safety.
“They can’t go home again, and some may not be safe where they are,” said Dyck. “They are looking for a place to call a permanent home.”
The cost of sponsoring a refugee family is between $25,000 to $30,000 per family for a year and includes helping them find a place to live, get settled, get the children into schools, and things like English lessons, Dyck said.
“This is a unique opportunity for Canadian Christians,” he said. “Just as many churches responded to the needs of Syrian refugees and others, they are invited to respond to the needs of these Afghan Christians.”
For Elton DaSilva, national director of the CCMBC, this is a chance for Canadian MBs to pay it forward.
“Mennonite Brethren remember when revolution and war caused their relatives to flee persecution, hunger and death and seek refuge,” he said, referencing the time 100 years ago, and again after the Second World War, when Mennonites fled the former Soviet Union for safety in Canada.
For him, the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Christians to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers,” is a guiding principle for helping the Afghan Christian refugees.
“God’s people have often welcomed those who have fled,” he said, noting this is an opportunity for Canadian MBs to do good for fellow Christians.
Shoaib Ebadi, executive director of Square One World Media in Winnipeg, grew up in Afghanistan.
The member of a local Mennonite Brethren church is excited about the effort to bring Christian Afghan refugee families to Canada because “they are doubly vulnerable,” he said.
In addition to some belonging to high-risk groups, being Christian puts them at an additional risk now that the country is ruled by The Taliban.
The Taliban follows a harsh version of Islam and has a strict interpretation of Islamic law, he said, noting that Afghans who convert to Christianity can be at risk of persecution or even death.
“Our duty as Christians in Canada is to help our brothers and sisters in need,” he said, noting many are languishing in limbo in other countries.
The Canadian Council of Anabaptist Leaders includes leaders from the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference and Mennonite Church Canada, along with the Be In Christ Church of Canada which is based in Ontario.
Churches that would like to sponsor an Afghan Christian refugee family can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-622-6337.
This story originally ran in the Winnipeg Free Press.