Pondering the Syrian Refugee Crisis

EDU 324 Learning Community 

While learning something, an opportunity arises to think about personal perceptions: where they came from, how true they are, and how they could be framed differently to align with the worldview you profess. Such was the thinking in our EDU 324: Education in the Developing World class this semester. While considering what the government and media is not saying about Syrian Refugees, our community decided to address certain points of relevance. In endeavouring to condense over 2000 words of input into a 900 word editorial, this article attempts to accurately summarize some key reflections and the reasons for its inclusion.

We now are in a ‘glocal’ world. What has formerly been termed as a missional opportunity is now breaking down our doors. We do not need to seek out specific lands in which to assist the others in our midst — although that may be desirable and worthy to many — because the ‘other’ arrives on our shores in increasing waves.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’... (ESV, Acts 17:22-28)

Our first point of reflection considered who the other is in our midst, and whose land is this anyway? Is this a crisis or an opportunity? Our ancestors found significance in supporting their families and becoming a meaningful part of Canadian society. Shouldn’t we help others do the same?

Since aspects of accommodation and assistance are essential to any refugee community as a basic need, it is sensible to begin there.  But then what? How do we embody a hospitality of care for strangers that we meet?  Is temporal intervention the best we can do? How can we assist fellow humans to flourish in a new land with a new language, a new landscape, an unfamiliar seasonal rhythm and a new neighbourhood orientation? What do we understand about them in their homeland?  Language classes, schooling for children and medical care will involve years, not months; long term support systems will need to be designed for safety, stability and psychological well being.

No system or program can meet the needs of a new immigrant. Only people can do that. Government intervention may transport people here — friendship and love will keep them here. It is not about numbers (over 10,000 people so far), but a welcome in hospitable grace that endures the test of time.

Our second point of reflection embraced media and what it represents government to be and do. It is very easy for people to observe what the government is doing and then pronounce judgment, both positive and negative, on what is being seen with our eyes but not reflected upon in a meaningful way. It is simultaneously easy to put all of the pressure and responsibility on the government to deal with the situation adequately.  

More is required of us than watching and waiting on the government. How can we expect government to handle the transitions into day-to-day life for every Syrian refugee? Learning to live in another country is not done only through a sponsored government program. We need to volunteer to help newcomers re-acclimatize by being a friend to them. This is a commitment, not a program.

Moving to a new country can be an isolating and overwhelming experience.  Instead of pointing out missing elements, maybe our energy would be better spent asking ourselves how we can act to fill in what is missing and then follow through. Volunteering with church based communities who sponsor new families; offering a What life is like in Canada course on how to use language, currency, local transportation in large cities like Toronto, and assisting someone with grocery shopping is not part of a government mandate. It is part of being human. It is what Christians do. It is what we are fully equipped without training to do.

This is not something that has to be done by oneself. Education does not only occur in a room of desks and chairs. Groups of people can step up to sponsor one or two refugees, thereby sharing the responsibility and pressure. It is what we would want others to do in a country in which we were new. We can do it as students, as professors, as church members and as neighbours. We can begin outreach groups, start entrepreneurial programs, hold fundraisers and begin to establish mentor/mentee projects. We can care. Because Jesus does.


Lack of Action

E-Waste and Redeemer

Nathan Brink

Last year, I became a Resident Advisor for a dorm of guys. Because it was a dorm of guys, I decided that we needed a TV. It was this large, clunky, and extremely heavy old thing that we all knew would be thrown out at the end of the year. Nobody wants to try to squeeze an outdated TV into their car as they head home. And so at the end of the year, we carried the thing outside and tossed it in the dumpster.

After it was in, I looked inside the dumpster and saw a large number of other TVs, similarly discarded by dorms who didn’t want to take it home. There were also kitchen appliances like toasters, blenders, coffee makers (which surprised me. What Dutchman would throw out a coffeemaker?), and so many other pieces of electronic waste.

As Christians, we are called to learn and grow and be stewards of this earth, and yet Redeemer has made absolutely no provisions for the proper disposal of electronic waste. With a little Internet research, I found numerous places around Hamilton where we can drop off Electronic Waste and they will properly dispose of it. Even better, there are several services where vans will come to your house, business or school and collect the waste. All Redeemer would have to do is set aside a special place for us to put the TVs and appliances, barbecues and little gadgets. As Stewards of Christ, I am surprised at the fact that no steps have been taken towards taking care of these products that are so damaging to the earth, when there are services out there waiting for us to call.

Ontario alone generates thousands of tones of electronic waste per year, with upwards of 90% of that being reusable. 81% of Ontario citizens have their own mobile phone, close to 11,000,000 people. The average length of time someone keeps a phone is about two and a half years. Almost every household in Canada has a television, a stereo, washing machines, refrigerators, stoves… the list of electronic devices in each home goes on. With new improvements, with each new generation of the iPhone, people go out and buy the latest gadget and either sell or throw out their old phones. So few people actually take the proper steps to dispose of E-waste, despite the free services that will come to your home and take it away for you.

Within most electronic devices there is a copious amount of metals that are hard to produce, as well as often being hard to properly dispose of safely. CRT monitors, those large, clunky TV and computer monitors, are some of the most difficult to recycle, as well as containing unsafe materials that, if abandoned in local landfills, are highly toxic.

Electronic waste is far too often shipped to developing countries like India and parts of Africa to be dismantled where there are fewer safety concerns. Removing components from CRT monitors is difficult and costly, due to the danger of the hazardous materials, and so they are sent away to either sit in enormous toxic dump yards or have impoverished people come and dismantle the technology themselves. One of the largest dump sites where e-waste is regularly shipped is the Guiyu waste dump in China. There is almost no control over how the precious metals are extracted from the waste and as such there is severe pollution to the groundwater, drinking water, and even the air. The tens of thousands of workers are paid little and often get incredibly sick due to the unsafe methods of extracting the metals.

All of this appalling information is what happens to e-waste that is not properly dismantled and is simply thrown away. Rather than having them sit and contaminate our land, they are shipped to developing countries where the effects are much more dangerous. When I looked into the bins in the parking lots of Redeemer, I saw dozens of monitors, appliances, and other pieces of waste that I know will not be handled safely.

This is an issue that is rarely discussed or looked at. Rarely do we look at outdated cellphones that we are throwing out and wonder if there is a proper method of disposing of it. All of us are complicit in our inactivity regarding this issue. But I think that with a little effort and organization, we can ensure that we all properly act as Stewards of God’s Kingdom. Redeemer is known as a phenomenal University with great academic programs, intelligent and understanding professors, and a huge community of believers. Our lack of action, I think, is a stain on this shining face of Redeemer, and one I hope can be remedied. 

Canada Joins Trans-Pacific Partnership

TPP Worries Some Canadians, Encourages Others

Rachel Debruyn | Layout Editor

Knowing it would cause national tension, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Oct. 5, only weeks before the election. Harper states that the deal will benefit Canadas economy, but many farmers and auto workers are frustrated.

At a time when the Conservative Party should have been avoiding controversy, they decided to move forward with a trade deal that puts around 20,000 Canadian jobs at risk and threatens the livelihood of Canadian poultry, turkey, and dairy farmers.

Among the people affected, dairy farmers have been particularly vocal with their concerns. Protestors drove tractors and walked dairy cows across Parliament Hill in September.

If you really open up the market it could potentially corrupt our quota system, says Lars Zeldenrijk, whose family owns a 160-head dairy farm in Ingersoll. Smaller farms and their communities will be affected financially. They wont be able to compete anymore.

 The Conservative Party’s lack of transparency during negotiations has frustrated the other parties. Harper moved ahead despite the possibility that the Conservative Party would lose power after the election yesterday. Now that the Liberal Party is in power, its not certain that they will support the terms of the deal.

In a letter addressed to the former Prime Minister on Oct. 15, the Honourable John McCallum, Liberal candidate for Markham-Unionville, wrote, Unfortunately, you have failed to be transparent through the entirety of the negotiations especially in regards to what Canada is conceding in order to be accepted into this partnership.

Harper states that he carefully considered whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a deal worthy to join. He sought to protect Canadian workers as much as possible during negotiations. Canadians initially feared that trade would be opened by 10 per cent. Instead, Canada will join at a rate of 3.25 per cent. It is uncertain at this point if that amount will increase in the future.

This is a very compassionately developed policy, says Dr. Vahagn Asatryan, Associate Professor of Business here at Redeemer. People have been given three to five years to prepare. It is very admirable that they would allow for that.

The TPP includes 12 nations and is the biggest trade agreement in the world. It will allow partner countries to reduce tariffs, encouraging more international trade. It expands the number and distribution of Canadas trade partners beyond its previous two: the United States and Mexico. The loss of supply management the control of supply through quotas and high tariffs will even out international competition. However it will mean a loss of security for many farmers.

Harper is prioritizing Canadas presence in the global economy. Although former protectionist policies were good for automotive companies and various agricultural sectors, they were also isolating Canada from engaging with global markets.

Sean Donnelly, President and C.E.O. of ArcelorMittal Dofasco, recently spoke with Redeemers International Business class about how the business community welcomes the opportunity to partake in fair international competition conditions.

Harper insists that now is the time for Canada to join in international trade agreements, otherwise it will be left behind as other nations collaborate and grow.

Politically, you can be either a driver or a taker, says Dr. Asatryan. You can be at the negotiators table or taking the effects later on.

Canadian farmers will not be neglected among the changes. The federal government plans to give compensation to those immediately impacted. For example, the average dairy farmer will be given $165,000 over the next 15 years.

For those concerned that imported milk like United States milk that is injected with controversial growth hormones will take a toll on Canadian consumers, Canadian regulations will still apply to any imported dairy products.

This is an opportunity for intellectual flourishing under dynamic labour conditions. An increase in trade opens the world for new workplace ministry opportunities, says Dr. Asatryan. 

Does British Columbia Hate Christianity?

College of Teachers Persecutes Christians at Trinity Western University

Michael Emmanuel

It appears amongst the Canadian provinces, the worst one to be a Christian in is British Columbia. I have come to this conclusion because of the number of times stories of outrageous persecution have come out of the province.

 In retrospect, it seems too long ago to be relevant that in 2002 Chris Kempling, a high school counselor, was suspended from his school by the British Columbia College of Teachers for daring to write against homosexuality being introduced into the curriculum. Despite his charitable attitude and reasoned social scientific position, Kempling was defamed for making “derogatory comments” and being “discriminatory.” But this was only the beginning of the litigations to come out of beautiful B.C.

 This wasn’t the first time the College of Teachers made the news for persecuting Christians, and it wouldn’t be the last. In 1996, the group attacked Trinity Western University’s right to have an education program. The accusations are now a familiar one: Trinity Western’s abstinence covenant was discriminatory against homosexuals and would lead graduates to be discriminatory. Never mind that the abstinence policy is equally discriminatory to heterosexual premarital relations. In 2002 the B.C. Supreme Court upheld Trinity Western’s right to have a teachers college since, according to Trinity Western’s Dr. Saffold, “People cannot be arbitrarily penalized or barred from participating in public life simply because they hold religious views.”

 Despite this victory for Trinity Western, it seems the same abstinence covenant would bring the school back under fire when the school submitted a proposal to establish a school of law to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada in 2012. The Federation delegated the right to accept Trinity Western law students to the provincial law societies. The Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario voted against approving the law school this spring, and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society conditioned acceptance on the grounds students could opt out of signing the covenant. Currently the Law Society of British Columbia is undecided but is supposed to hold a final referendum by the end of October. Once again, the accusations were that Trinity Western’s students would be discriminatory in their practice of law because of their faith positions.

 These stories are starting to become familiar, though. It was the events transpiring in Nanaimo B.C. that took things to a whole new level.

On May 5th 2014, the Nanaimo town councilors voted 8-1 to revoke approval of the “Beyond You” Leadercast event, sponsored by Chick-fil-A, to be held in the town convention centre. The event was to be a daylong conference on leadership, including speakers like Laura Bush and Desmond Tutu, and was entirely taxpayer funded. Why did this event on leadership have to be banned? Well, Chick-fil-A came under media fire in 2012 when owner Dan Cathy made public statements upholding traditional marriage. The Nanaimo councilors didn’t want to associate themselves with that viewpoint even if in the form of allowing a conference sponsored by a business owned by the man. Councilor Jim Kipp claimed banning the event was no worse than banning an organized crime ring since, the Christian view of marriage should “almost be a criminal point of view in this day and age.” Despite the fact the event had nothing to do with homosexuality or Christian view of marriage, the councilors denounced the event as “hateful.”

Activist and news pundit Ezra Levant caused the story to go viral when he posted footage of the council meeting online. After 4,300 people signed and submitted Levant’s petition at www.TheRealBigots.com, the Nanaimo City Council released a statement of regret that its resolution had been, “perceived as being directed at or discriminatory against Christians.” Note, this was not an apology for calling Christian beliefs criminal and comparing Christians to terrorists, but simply regret that these statements were perceived as discriminatory. Since then Levant has raised funds to sue the city for its obvious Charter violations.

 This last story takes the cake though.

Just earlier this month, Bethany Paquette, a graduate of Trinity Western, applied for a job at Amurak Wilderness Corp. and was rejected for being under qualified. Only, the rejection did not end there. Olaf Amundsen, supposedly the company’s hiring manager, followed the rejection by saying, “Unlike Trinity Western, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want.” Amundsen continued that he blames Christianity for having destroyed his Norse culture and way of life. Paquette sent a response defending her right to believe free from discrimination and ended the email with, “God bless”. Outraged, Amundsen retorted that if he met God, he would have sex with Him. Paquette is bringing a suit against Amurak to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

I have a hard time convincing people that Christians are not free in Canada. I mean, how could I argue something like that as I write for a Christian based media publication at a Christian university where I am free to worship God according to the way I believe and to share that belief with others? But these stories demonstrate that Canada is not the bastion of freedom we like to imagine it is. Christians have been asleep at the switch. And the progression of