February 19, 2024

Dear Friends in Christ,

As Christians, we are called to be active participants in building for God’s Peaceable Realm, which includes addressing the ongoing issues within our community through action and advocacy; issues such as refugees fleeing violence and persecution, the scourge of drug overdoses, and the housing/homelessness crisis. Because our faith is centred on love, compassion, and serving those in need, we are called to embody these principles in all aspects of our lives by engaging with and supporting people who are facing such challenges and seeking alternatives to the status quo.

In the last 6-8 months I have witnessed an increase in refugees coming to the Cathedral.  I see this at the Maundy Café, during the midweek services, in the narthex, and also in our worshipping community at our Sunday services.  I feel that as Christians, we are called to approach the issue of refugees with empathy and a desire to offer tangible assistance. Scripture urges us to welcome the stranger, as Jesus himself said, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matthew 25:35). I see this as a clear statement that it is our responsibility to work towards finding solutions that offer refuge, safety, and support to those fleeing war, persecution, or other dire circumstances.

Drug overdoses and deaths are also a pressing concern within our society. In 2023 there were 2,511 suspected deaths from unregulated drug use. It’s the highest number ever and an increase of 5% over 2022. All this since we declared a public health emergency.  As Christians, we claim to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person, including those struggling with addiction. We must respond with compassion and work towards providing resources for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation in light of these horrific numbers. Jesus himself displayed unconditional love and mercy towards those who were marginalized and struggling, and we are called to follow His example by offering understanding,  hope, and tangible action to individuals affected by substance abuse as well as seeking changes in the system that allows it to continue.

Homelessness is another complex issue that we are called to confront. The lack of housing, let alone affordable housing has reached crisis levels in our province. Many people in B.C. are spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing. Statistics Canada data show B.C. is leading the country as the province with the highest rate of unaffordable homes. The data gathered from the 2021 census said B.C. ranks as the most unaffordable province for housing in Canada. "B.C. at 25.5 percent and Ontario at 24.2 percent had the highest rates of unaffordable housing nationally in 2021," said the report. "This was largely because of the higher rates of unaffordable housing in the renter-heavy large urban centres of Toronto at 30.5 percent and Vancouver at 29.8 percent."

The call of Jesus for us to act, to pursue justice, and to alleviate suffering among the poorest and most vulnerable makes it our duty to strive for a solution to the current crisis.  If we neglect those experiencing homelessness and struggling for affordable housing we directly contradict those teachings. I feel we must seek ways to address the root causes of homelessness and work towards providing adequate and affordable housing. We must advocate as individuals, as a Cathedral, and as a Diocese.

To address these ongoing issues, we need to find inspiration in our faith and through collaborative efforts with members of our faith community and other like-minded people and organizations. By joining with local partners to offer relief, advocate for policy changes, and actively engage in volunteer work, we can make a positive impact on the lives of refugees, those struggling with addiction, and the homeless.

Additionally, it is essential to contribute to the public discourse on these issues and raise awareness within our larger communities. By sharing stories, educating ourselves and others, and fostering dialogue with others who may hold different perspectives, we can promote understanding, empathy, and a collective effort toward finding lasting solutions.

Ultimately, Jesus calls us to respond to the needs of our community, extending love, compassion, and support to those experiencing adversity. Through our actions and commitments, we can reflect the transformative power of Christ's love in addressing ongoing issues and bringing hope to those who need it most.