Muslims, Christians partner to bring refugees to Victoria

Muslims and Christians are forming a partnership in an effort to bring refugee families to Victoria.

They will work to help two or three families that have fled violence in countries such as Syria or Iraq. Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has pledged to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year.

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The partnership brings together Masjid Al-Iman with Oak Bay United Church and St. Aidan’s United Church in Saanich.

The groups are a good match, said Ismail Mohamed Nur, the mosque’s imam.

Nur said the Muslim community is “very happy” to be able to work with the Christian groups.

“It’s something that’s been echoed on their side, as well,” he said.

“One of the things that we’ve been talking about when we’ve gotten together is the fact that these kinds of issues, it makes us put our differences aside.”

Nur said that while Christianity and Islam have differences, “at the same time, we have more things in common.”

“One of those things is helping people,” he said.

“This is a real-case scenario where our action or inaction will actually affect people’s lives.”

He said that getting refugees to a new home is just part of the process.

“The first part of helping those people is to bring them to a better place, to Canada, but that’s just half of the story,” he said.

“The second part is helping them integrate into society and taking care of their needs.”

Nur said the Muslim community was already raising funds for the Syrian people when representatives from the churches reached out.

“The Muslim community, we’ve had this in our minds for a very long time,” he said.

“I’m very grateful the Christian community took it upon themselves that they wanted to make this a reality.”

Rev. Michelle Slater of Oak Bay United Church said her congregation was galvanized by images of three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach. He had drowned along with his mother and brother as they attempted to get to Europe by boat.

“We quickly contacted the national United Church because it’s through their sponsorship agreement that we would sponsor refugees,” Slater said.

“And immediately we thought whether we sponsor Syrian refugees or someone else from that part of the world, they’ll likely be Muslim.”

From there, it was decided to contact the Muslim community.

“We are so grateful to have an opportunity to make a concrete difference in the lives of families in need, and at the same time, to build relationships with our neighbours of a different faith,” she said.

The public is invited to a Saturday event to find out more about helping refugees seeking to resettle. It will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the mosque at 2218 Quadra St., with guest speakers from the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, the National Zakat Foundation and the B.C. Muslim Association.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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