Our Advent calendar launches today


Celebrate the deep hope of Advent with us. We’re sharing stories about the people and projects you support around the world. Beginning today and each day after, click on the image shown in the calendar to discover a new story.

Click here to visit the calendar.

Staff from CLWR, ELCIC and LCC are sponsoring a family

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UPDATE: We just found out they will be a family of four: a couple with two children. The paperwork to get the sponsorship moving has begun.

The staff of Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and the two major national Lutheran church bodies are coming together for the first time to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada.

The national offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), the LCC Central District office and CLWR are pooling donations from individual staff members to raise the money needed to support a family for a year.

Earlier this fall, CLWR staff members agreed to begin collecting pledges to sponsor one person, most likely a Syrian living in Jordan, where most of CLWR’s overseas programming for Syrian refugees takes place. CLWR invited the churches to get on board, making it possible to bring a whole family. 

While they have not connected with a particular family as yet, they do know that they will be able to sponsor a Syrian family of five. ELCIC, LCC and CLWR are headquartered in Winnipeg and that’s where they expect the family will live, so that staff members can provide emotional support and connect the family with settlement services like language training, job training and counselling.

CLWR is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Canadian government, which allows them to facilitate private sponsorships for congregations, families and other groups, including their own. Once a family is identified, CLWR expects it will take approximately two to six months before they arrive in Winnipeg. They plan to put their expertise in refugee resettlement to use.

“Each day we work to support congregations who are acting as refugee sponsors in Canada,” says Robert Granke, CLWR executive director. “My colleagues and I are excited to come together as a team and welcome a family, together with colleagues from the ELCIC and LCC. We are looking forward to identifying a family and meeting them in the coming months.”

This sponsorship is on top of the refugee sponsorships individual ELCIC and LCC congregations undertake every year across the country. 

ELCIC congregations have challenged themselves to sponsor 500 refugees by 2017 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.   

“I’m so glad our staff are participating in this sponsorship and taking part in the ELCIC Reformation Challenge,” says ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson. “Our partnership with CLWR is such an important part of living out our call to be a church In Mission for Others. The refugee sponsorship between our national offices is especially timely given the fact that our government is committed to increasing the number of Syrian refugees to Canada. Together we are taking ‘welcoming the stranger’ very seriously.” 

LCC President Robert Bugbee reflected on the decision of the LCC staff to support refugee resettlement.

“I’m deeply grateful to our friends at CLWR for inviting us to take part in this project,” President Bugbee said. “There are few better ways to come to grips with the worldwide plight of refugees than to spend concrete time with real individuals, and I believe that we ‘longtime Canadians’ will be the first to benefit when we seek to show this sort of love to others. It will be a great thing if the commitment of our national staff people to address this need encourages local congregations across the country to consider refugee sponsorship in their own communities.”

Refugee Reality Check

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Canada and CLWR are preparing to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees over the coming months. But the reality for most of the 620,000 refugees living in Jordan is that they will not be resettled in the near future. They live with the hope that peace will prevail, and many wish to return to Syria one day.

Until then, refugee families continue struggling to meet their needs, including making sure their children get an education. While the government of Jordan has generously allowed Syrian refugee students full access to the public school system, facilities are stretched and classrooms are crowded—things that don’t contribute to a positive learning environment.

That’s where you come in. With a gift of $20 for Giving Tuesday, December 1, you can help makeover these schools. That makes it Giving School-Day. And the Canadian government will match your gift.

The makeovers include fixing doors, windows, electrical circuits, and plumbing…doing the things that will help the kids focus on learning.

While we will welcome our new neighbours from Syria and make them feel at home in Canada, we can’t forget those who are still exiled from their country because of war and in whom we can help keep hope alive.

You can support Syrian refugee students with a donation at www.GivingSchoolDay.ca.

CLWR Giving Tuesday 2015 donate size reduced

A CLWR prayer for the 1st Sunday of Advent

1st Sunday Advent Facebook

God of power and might,

We yearn for your coming again.

We yearn for you to begin

Your reign of Justice and Peace.

Enable your reign to shape

Our lives and actions.

Empower us to be

Seed beds of hope and justice.

May the new heaven and the new earth

Be revealed through us, we pray

In Jesus’ name, AMEN

Advent blessings to you. Thanks to Rev. Lidvald Haugen Strand, Rector of St George’s Anglican Parish, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, for contributing our prayer for the first Sunday of Advent.

CLWR asks you to share on Giving Tuesday

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The conditions of schools Syrian refugee kids attend in Jordan is the focus of Canadian Lutheran World Relief’s (CLWR) Giving Tuesday campaign, December 1. The charitable online giving emphasis is a reaction to Black Friday, November 27, and Cyber Monday, November 30, which are all about shopping.

With the theme “Giving School-Day” the relief and development organization is hoping to raise $20,000 to makeover a number of schools in Jordan. The project will install or upgrade electrical, windows, plumbing, doors, floors, stairs, school yards—all the things that create a positive learning environment. And until December 31, each gift supporting Syrian refugees is matched by the Canadian government.

“Jordan’s education system is coping with an influx of more than 100,000 Syrian students. Facilities are being stretched beyond their ability to cope and that doesn’t contribute to a positive learning environment,” explained CLWR executive director Robert Granke.

Granke noted that while Canada and CLWR prepare to welcome at least 25,000 Syrian refugees, the reality is that most of the 620,00 Syrian refugees living in Jordan will not be resettled anytime soon. They are living with the hope that peace will prevail and many hope to one day return to Syria. In the meantime, refugee families struggle to meet their basic needs, including making sure their children go to school.

“Supporting the education of the refugee children plants seeds of hope for a brighter future,” Granke said. “At Christmas we celebrate God’s gift of hope to us in Jesus Christ, and Giving School-Day is a great way to share that hope with others.”

To support Giving School-Day go to www.GivingSchoolDay.ca


Resettling refugees in Canada: the screening process

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, Nigeria, and other places, many concerns have been raised about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Canada, particularly in regards to security. This article is meant to give you some information about the refugee security screening process refugees undergo before being admitted to Canada.

No Safe Place in Syria

Syrian refugees are fleeing their country due to risks to their lives. Fighting between the government forces and rebels have become complicated with other groups joining the fight, including Hezbollah and Daesh (otherwise known as ISIL or ISIS). This has caused more widespread fighting and innocent civilians are getting caught in the crossfire. With the authorities caught up in the fighting, and much of the infrastructure in disarray, Syrian civilians are not able to get the protection they need within their country.

The process for sponsor-referred refugees

  • This is the category that CLWR is involved with along with congregations and groups. 
  • These refugees are brought in at the request of relatives or friends in Canada who apply via the private sponsorship program. 
  • This process is facilitated through Canadian government Sponsorship Agreement Holders like CLWR. There is a thorough review and screening of the application before we consider submitting it for processing.
  • If we submit the application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the visa office processing the case will do an eligibility and admissibility screening. 
  • At the interview they ask the refugee applicant questions to ensure accuracy and credibility and then the officer determines if they are eligible for resettlement.  
  • If approved, the refugee applicant must get police background checks from every country in which they have ever resided.  
  • The visa office also does a thorough background security check using the assistance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).  If there is anything suspicious the file is scrupulously reviewed and investigations conducted.  
  • A refugee applicant can be inadmissible to enter Canada on the basis of security, serious criminality, organized criminality or human rights violations.  


The process for UNHCR-referred refugees

  • These refugees are ones that the Canadian government is bringing in. They are called Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs).
  • These refugees go through even more security screening, because it is done first by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). If the refugee applicant is found eligible for resettlement, they will refer the case to the corresponding Canadian visa office.  
  • These refugee applicants will also go through an interview process and Canadian security background checks.  
  • If there is anything suspicious thorough investigations are conducted, and the refugee applicant will not be allowed to come to Canada if any security concerns or criminality issues are discovered.


The process for Syrian refugee claimants

  • Refugee claimants, or asylum seekers, enter Canada without residence documents and undergo the refugee determination process (similar to the interviews done at the visa office) with the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada.  
  • All refugee claimants go through a front-end security screening. Through this process CSIS checks all refugee claimants on arrival in Canada. 
  • Since the screening was put in place in 2001, the number of claimants found to represent any kind of security concern has been statistically insignificant.
  • It is also worthy to note that it is far more difficult to enter Canada as a refugee than as a visitor, because the refugee determination process involves security checks by CSIS and the RCMP, fingerprinting and interviews. It is not likely that a person intending to commit a violent act would expose themselves to such detailed examinations. 

More than ever Syrian refugees need our support and Canada’s protection. If we do not let them come to Canada because of fear, we risk further endangering Syrian lives. Syrians cannot receive protection from the Syrian authorities, and other countries of asylum are closing their doors. As Christians, it is a moral imperative for us to help Syrian refugees, especially when security risks are so low. We have been commissioned to welcome the stranger on many occasions.

Procedures for processing urgent protection cases: criminality and security screening

The government of Canada has published policies, procedures and guidance used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada staff. We’ve reproduced some of that information below:

Once a decision has been made to accept a case for urgent processing, security checks should be initiated. 

Step 1: Initiate security and criminality checks 

The visa office should initiate criminality and security screening immediately following a tentative positive decision. Urgent background checks will require liaison with the Security Liaison Officer (SLO), whether at the visa office or in another location, in person or by phone.

Step 2: Refer cases to Case Management Branch, if necessary 

The officer refers a case to Case Management Branch (BCD) for more investigation where there are negative results of a security or criminal background check. BCD can advise the officer if there are other considerations for admissibility and the officer should consider the information provided by BCD when making their decision on admissibility. 

When cases are referred to the Case Management Branch for investigation, the 3-5 day target may not be met. An estimated turn-around would be determined by Case Management and the officer can inform UNHCR in the event that UNHCR may wish to refer the case to another resettlement country.

Please ensure that copies of the applicant’s IMM 0008, any additional referral information and any other information that can assist with screening are forwarded to the Case Management Branch.

Criminality and security risk management

On the basis of country conditions and local information, profiling and any other available tools, the SLO will provide an assessment of the risks to the officer regarding the nature and degree of any risk. The officer will decide whether any perceived risk outweighs the need for urgent protection.

Source: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/refugees/resettlement/processing/urgent/secur.asp

Here are other websites which can assist in an understanding of the screening process:




A CLWR prayer for the Reign of Christ

Reign of Christ Facebook

Life-weaving God,

Your delight in all things is revealed

in the interwoven tapestry of life.

May our lives and actions

express the in-breaking of your reign

Where the lion and the lamb lie down together;

Where we delight in creation and in each other;

Through Christ we pray, AMEN

Thanks to Rev. Lidvald Haugen Strand, Rector of St George’s Anglican Parish, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, for contributing this week’s CLWR prayer.