Articulating the Theology of Refugee Welcome

Tevfik Karatop finished the Master of Divinity degree at Dio in 2021 and has since been studying for a Master of Arts in the School of Religious Studies at McGill. The aim of his research is to understand how theology gets enacted and redefined in parishes who choose to sponsor refugees. “After four years of discernment, it became clear that my vocation in the Church was serving refugees and advocating for their cause,” he says. He believes strongly that academic knowledge should be used at the service of Christian ministry. “With my project, I hope to contribute to the Church’s ministry of refugee resettlement by providing academic knowledge about this unique service.”

His research centres around the Private Refugee Sponsorship program, a federal and provincial resettlement program that was initiated after the efforts of Canadian churches to welcome European refugees after the Second World War. “Christian churches, including the Anglican Church in Canada, are still the most significant participants of this program,” he explains. He is working with several Anglican congregations in Quebec who are sponsoring refugees to understand why these communities are so eager to delve into the bureaucratic labyrinth of refugee sponsorship, and what theological principles drive these ministries. “Based on archival research and interviews with sponsoring congregations, I can easily say that refugee sponsorship stands out as a unique ministry in our history and today. When Anglican churches sponsor refugees and resettle them in Canada, they respond to Jesus’ calling to welcome strangers as they would welcome him. These ministries have generated new theologies that resonate with the big questions of the contemporary Church about cultural differences, immigration and increasing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. Until now, my research has shown that Anglican churches’ dedication to accompanying refugees opens up space for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we continue to discern God’s calling to be one.”

Tevfik is an example of the growing number of graduate students who have chosen to affiliate with the college while pursuing their advanced degrees at McGill. These students enrich our community by bringing their unique perspectives and research into our common life. Tevfik asks for your prayers on his research, and on the many Christians who, despite financial and bureaucratic challenges, continue to welcome strangers in Jesus’ holy name.