The Episcopal News Service reports on an Anglican church in Canada that is using red tape as a sign of hope for refugees fleeing Syria.
As of Sept. 21, St. Aidan’s Anglican Church had raised roughly $35,000 for refugee sponsorship after 15 days of its “Red Tape Challenge.” The appeal asks participants, after making their donations, to tear a piece of red duct tape and attach it to their vehicles, rural mailbox or other prominent place.
The point of the tape, says John Davidson, the St. Aidan’s parishioner who came up with the idea, is to pressure the federal government to reduce barriers to refugees in Canada – “to show Ottawa that yes, you can cut through red tape if you have the desire and the wherewithal, and you want to get the job done.”
The appeal began after the publication of photographs of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old whose family had hoped to join relatives in Canada, but whose journey ended in tragedy in September.
The rector of St. Aidan’s, Canon Kevin George, says the appeal began he preached about faith and works on the Sunday following the photographs’ publication.
Immediately after the service, Davidson approached him with the “red tape” concept. “He walked up to me and said, ‘I think I have an idea’,” George says.
Davidson is an accomplished fundraiser. …“People tend to listen” to Davidson when he stands up and makes a plea to raise money for a cause, George says.
… “I think we were at $16 or 17,000 thousand dollars by the end of leaving coffee hour,” George says. “I’ve been doing this for about 20 years – priestly ministry – and I can’t remember ever doing anything where people responded so quickly with so much.”
The parish plans to host refugee families themselves, but also to raise awareness of and funds for resolving the problem of refugee resettlement. Davidson says it’s easy to join the red tape campaign, and with so many churches involved in fundraising for refugees, donors can simply slip an envelope marked for refugee relief into a church mailbox: “They’ll know what to do with it,” Davidson says.
George says he and other organizers are heartened by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s announcement this weekend of plans to, in his own words, “cut red tape” and speed up the processing of refugees. Ottawa will undertake new measures that will allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to be admitted by September 2016, instead of the federal government’s promise in January of doing so within three years, Alexander says.
But organizers think much more can still be done, George says. He points to a recent call on Ottawa by retired general Rick Hillier to bring in 50,000 refugees over the next three months—a number that is really not as large as it may seem, George says, given Canada’s size.
“Fifty thousand represents just a little more than what we would put in a Blue Jays game—right across the nation,” he says.