I have no idea if the story is true. I do not know any concrete details or specifics; there are no names attached to this sorry tale.

A Christian sponsorship committee welcomed a Muslim family to their community. The Muslim family was informed that there was no need to pray five times a day and they could dispense with their headscarfs. When they settled into their new home and turned on the television they discovered they had been signed up for an all-Christian cable network.

Even if this story is completely fabricated, the details are horrendous enough to serve as a serious warning and to motivate the following plea to all Christian Refugee Sponsorship Committees.

Dear Christian Refugee Sponsorship Committee,

Thank you for the compassion and kindness that have compelled you to take on the serious and challenging task of helping a family escape the danger of their homeland and to seek to resettle in our country. In fulfilling this noble calling you will navigate many difficulties. Situations will arise you may never have imagined. It will require creativity and patience to find your way forward with the family you are helping to relocate.

The family will be suffering from a profound sense of loss and disorientation. They have given up their homes and in most cases family members who they can only imagine they may never see again. They have left their livelihood and launched out into an unknown future where their skills may not be valued or the training they received in the past may not be credited. In many cases they have spent years under intense pressure, surrounded by violence, fear, and danger. The people you will be dealing with are suffering the effects of deep trauma from their past and fear and uncertainty about the present.

Your first job as a Refugee Sponsorship Committee is to approach the family for whom you assume responsibility with the utmost respect, understanding, and gentleness as you seek to help them adjust to the radical changes they face .

Immigrant sponsorship is never an opportunity to attempt to make converts.

Trying to change or persuade them that their values, ideas, beliefs, views, or practices are in any way incorrect or inferior to yours is never appropriate.  The people who have made the difficult journey to life in a new culture and environment are extremely vulnerable. To take advantage of their vulnerability and use it to fulfill your own agenda, even if you are motivated by the best intentions in the world, subjects them to a subtle form of the violence they are seeking to escape.

Remember, whatever faith, worldview, or values the family bring with them, they hold with as much passion and conviction as you hold your cherished beliefs. You must do everything you can to treat the family you sponsor as absolute equals to you. The difficulty of their position gives you no right to approach them from the conviction that you are qualified to know what is best for their lives. It may be appropriate to communicate your worldview by your behaviour, but never by manipulation, coercion, or any form of pressure. Imagine if you were forced to immigrate and those who helped you tried to talk you out of praying The Lord’s Prayer or going to Sunday worship in a Christian church. You would be horrified and feel deeply violated. Never do to any immigrant anything you would not want done to you if you were in their position.

Your only task is to listen sensitively to the family who have been brought into your community and help them in whatever way you can to adjust to the new life into which they have been thrust. If you listen to the immigrant family with genuine openness, you will almost certainly find that you share many values and that your views of the world and your beliefs, even about God, probably share more in common than you might have imagined.

If you listen carefully and sensitively to the family who are entering your lives, your own beliefs will be deepened and your faith strengthened by the experience. Truth that is shared, even across a great divide of divergent culture and practice, will always enrich those who are willing to enter openly into the relationship.

For those who open their hearts to the family they sponsor, the rewards can be profoundly gratifying, but only when the process is entered with complete total respect and absolute devotion to helping the newcomer to our county become most fully the person they believe they are called to be in the way that they believe is authentic in their lives.