16 November 2019

Global Response to a Global Crisis – Community Sponsorship as an option

Cork in Ireland welcomed Global Champions that gathered for the Community Sponsorship Champions Summit, that took place from 13-15 November 2019. The Community Sponsorship Champions Summit, which was organised by the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative in cooperation with Irish partners has been a rejuvenating, revitalising and equally thought provoking event.

The launch of the Community Sponsorship Ireland from pilot to full programme was the culmination of a 3 days long summit, which brought opportunities to share, learn and take stock. Opportunity to see the depth and breadth of work that has been done in countries where Community Sponsorship has been around for some time. But also, opportunity for those who are exploring the scheme.

David Stanton, Minister of State at Department of Justice and Equality made a remarkable speech at the official launch. The Minister, who is a great ally and champion of Community Sponsorship, said “Community Sponsorship enables sponsor groups to provide not only supports to refugees but also to extend hands of friendship and a warm welcome to them.  I strongly urge communities the length and breadth of the country to get involved in this programme. These community efforts create such a positive experience for refugees coming to Ireland.” Minister Stanton also thanked what he called ‘the critical friends’, who have come together to deliver this exciting and impactful initiative. The Community Sponsorship Ireland launch event was a great opportunity to bring government officials, Community Sponsors, Newcomers, Civil Society Organisations, Community Groups and delegates from UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Iceland, Agrgentina, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA and Brazil.

The most momentous moment of the launch event was having little girl, Eman Ahmad, who has been able to demonstrate her painting skills, natural gifts and her generosity. She brought beautiful and meaningful picture to give to the Minister and through him to the people of Ireland. The day before the launch, Eman had also extended her gifts in terms of paintings to Jennifer Bond, Chair of The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative and Dennis Cole, representative of Canadian Government. Eman is the future with lots of hopes, aspirations and  dreams.

In her opening remarks at the launch of Community Sponsorship Ireland, Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, the Migrant & Refugee Rights Centre, said “Sponsoring a refugee family has been a transformative experience for both refugees and the communities they become part of.

Although the Community Sponsorship Ireland launch was the culmination of the champions summit, lots happened from 13-15 November, thanks to a great organising by Janice Bothello and Irish partners. A visit to Midleton, East Cork and meetings with resettled families, sponsors and partners gave us chance to see the depth of the Irish Community Sponsorship initiative. We further had helpful discussions, workshops and brainstorming events with useful inputs from friends and experts of the Community Sponsorship scheme and beyond that gathered in Cork. Tim Dixon of More in Common and Lauren Rodman led on two engaging workshops. Tim Dixon said, “Community Sponsorship offers huge creative potential for powerful storytelling that unites people across the divisions of values and politics.” 

The Global Challenge needs Global Action 

The Community Sponsorship stories from around the globe tell us that coordinated action to address a global challenge is possible. The stories give us chance to have trust and confidence in the global community to address one of the biggest challenges of our generation. They also give us hope. But we have more to do; and we can do better than this. The world has to once again come together to find solutions that are global. Leadership is sought from the International Community. CSOs, community groups, universities, schools, businesses and others have to step up and step in. Time to say, ‘we are all in this together more than ever’ and respond to the global call practically. Yes, it is now and only now that we have to have those bold, courageous and life changing decisions.  

At the same time, it is vital to nurture the Refugee Sponsorship scheme that is available; invest in capacity building and extend support to the most vulnerable people in our generation. Governments need to pledge to act and deliver on their pledges. Civil society should organise more, coordinate and lead by examples. Our institutions, faith and non-faith have to show leadership beyond simple words. We need to Walk The Talk. Address anger and frustration by doing the right thing now. To finish with a biblical reflection, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” James 2:14-17

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