By Jane Moffat
On Saturday October 29, a near capacity crowd enjoyed “Songs of Inspiration” a heartwarming concert with Rev. Matt Martin and Rev. Valerie Kenyon accompanied by Steve Holowitz and Musical Friends at St James Westminster Church in London, with an appearance by special guest Elvis, much to the delight of the audience.
This was a benefit concert for the London Ecumenical Refugee Committee who sponsored a Karen family of seven from a refugee camp in Thailand, arriving in London February 3, 2016 and LERC is now ready to apply for a second family, thanks to the members’ hard work and wonderful support from the seven churches represented on the committee, and the community at large.
There are currently over 40 Karen families in London.
The London Ecumenical Refugee Committee partners include: The London Karen Community; Church of the Epiphany (Anglican); Colborne Street United Church; First Baptist Church; House Church on Horton Street (Anglican); New St. James Presbyterian Church; St. James Westminster Anglican Church; St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church.
The Karen people, one of seven ethnic states under attack by the Burmese army, were expelled from their homes in Myanmar (Burma) more than 20 years ago and have been living in refugee camps in neighbouring Thailand ever since.
Now that the Burmese government is nominally democratic, the Thai and Burmese governments are negotiating the return to Burma of all 140,000 Karen refugees in the near future, even though the attacks against the Karen remaining in Burma are escalating.
If the Karens are forced to return to Burma, where rape, forced labour and destruction of food sources by the Burmese army continue, they will lose their UN refugee status and it will become vastly more difficult to sponsor Karens to settle in Canada. This is rapidly becoming a life and death situation and that is why LERC is working quickly to bring at least a few more Karen families to London.
The LERC members have been greatly enriched by the experience of making new friends and supporting the family of Mom, Dad, four sons ages 15 – 7 years and one little three-year-old girl as they successfully embark on a new and very different life in Canada.
Jane Moffat is LERC member from House Church on Horton Street