Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: immigration

Who let these people in?

There is a fine Christian lady doctor of our acquaintance who believes Canada is letting in way too many people from Asia and Africa. She is originally from South Africa, but left when black people were allowed to form the government. She fears for Canada’s future.

She’s wrong of course. The native people of Canada tell us the problem began when English-speaking people arrived over here. The first white people to arrive, those who spoke French, respected their elders and their women. The second white people, the ones who spoke English, respected neither their elders nor their women.

I am inclined to agree. Many French-speaking fur traders married Indian wives. Some of them brought their wives and children back to Montreal, which was the headquarters of the fur trade. Others settled down in the West with their wives and children. The English-speaking fur traders, mostly Scottish and fine upstanding Presbyterians, scorned such intermingling with non-white people.

Of course, many of them had summer wives in the West, as well as a Scottish wife in Montreal. What’s a man to do after all? Neither family was to know anything of the other. And when they retired, either back to Montreal or to Scotland, their western families were conveniently forgotten.

Other people of Scottish background came to Canada from Ulster, bringing with them their fierce Orange sympathies. The Orange men had a visceral hatred of anyone who was Roman Catholic, did not speak English, or did not have white skin. They did their utmost to make governments conform to their beliefs, leading to numerous riots, the burning of the parliament buildings and military action against the Métis in the West.

When the Canadian prairies were opened for settlement, many of the immigrants came from Eastern Europe and gradually the Orange sentiments became submerged in the new reality. Thousands of Chinese men came over to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway, then stayed to run Chines restaurants in every little prairie town. Eventually, Chinese women were allowed in too. Nowadays of course, Chinese immigrants have money and that makes them much more welcome.

A few years ago a small town in Scotland discovered that there was an Indian community in Saskatchewan whose people had the same last names as they did. After some investigation and a few visits it was found that they were indeed long lost cousins. Their ancestors never would have conceived that such a thing could be cause for celebration, but it was.

Some Christian denominations attempted to transform the Indians into Christians by forcing them into residential schools. That did not work out very well. Then they tried to force the government to make the whole country more Christian through prohibition. That didn’t work either. So now we content ourselves with sending missionaries to all the heathen lands and often express regrets that many countries won’t allow missionaries in.

In more recent years, people from all these countries begin to show up in our towns and cities. We worry about all these strangers in our midst and complain that we can hardly understand them when we encounter them as store and office clerks. We are afraid that they may bring with them much of the strife and animosity that exists in their home countries.

But they left their home countries because of that strife and animosity. We claim to have something better because we know the Prince of Peace. Why not share that acquaintanceship with these newcomers?

Peace in time of war

There are four main religious groups in Lebanon: Maronite Christians, descended from the old Syriac church and united with the Roman Catholic Church, yet maintaining some of the old ways, including a married priesthood; Shiite Muslims; Sunni Muslims and Greek Orthodox. A power sharing agreement was worked out after the Second World War that worked well for a number of years. Lebanon prospered, became a major tourist destination and Beirut became the banking and financial centre of the Middle East.

That changed in 1975 with attacks by radical Muslims, PLO and Hezbollah, and a civil war ensued that lasted until 1990. Peace has never been fully restored.

Our friend Helen, from a Maronite family, was attending university in Beirut in the 1980’s. She told us that practically every building in the city had suffered some damage from the war. She rode the bus to the university every morning, carrying with her a bag with extra clothes and supplies in case she wouldn’t be able to get home that night.

Her parents home was a peaceful haven amid the strife and turmoil of the war. Her father’s presence in the home gave her a feeling of security and peace. He told his sons that they were never to think of enlisting in the army, or of getting involved in the conflict in any other way. The war was to remain outside, thee should be no strife in their home.

When she finished university the economy of Lebanon was in ruins. There seemed to be no hope of finding work, no future at all in this war torn country. She applied to immigrate to Canada and was accepted. She obtained a passport, but could not seem to obtain the document needed to leave the country. By this time the Beirut Airport was controlled by a Muslim militia. She left for the airport with her documents and ticket, praying that somehow she would be able to get on the plane.

As soon as she walked though the doors of the airport a man approached her and asked for her documents. She handed them over, then panicked as she realized how foolish that was. The man asked her to come with him and she followed in an almost dream-like state. He led her through every step of the way, ticket counter, baggage check, security and so on, always going directly to the head of the line and getting her passed through with hardly a glance at the papers. Finally she was to the boarding ramp of her airplane; he handed her papers back to her, wished her well and was gone.

It wasn’t until her plane was airborne and she was safely on her way to Montreal that it sunk in how wondrously her prayer had been answered. She has no idea who the man was, or why he helped her. Her family has no idea either.

Why learn French?

The World Almanac says that there are only 70 million French-speaking people in the world. That’s not very significant, why should I bother learning it?

Not so fast! If you look closely, the World Almanac is giving the estimated number of people for whom French is their mother tongue (even at that it is questionable, but I will get to that later). Beside that number is the number of countries in which French is spoken by a significant number of people. That number is 60, making French the second most widely spoken language in the world, after English.

More realistic estimates of the number of people who speak French vary somewhat, Wikipedia says 340 million. At present there are about equal numbers of French-speaking people in Europe and in Africa, but that is rapidly changing. As education becomes more and more accessible to the people of the francophone countries of Africa, French is rapidly replacing tribal languages. Thus estimates which assume that all Africans have tribal languages as their mother tongue are becoming less and less realistic. It is estimated that by 2050 there could be 500 million, or more, French-speaking people in Africa alone.

The numbers of people who know French in some other countries may surprise you: more than 10 million in both Germany and the UK, almost 3 million in Egypt, more than 2 million in the USA, around half a million in each of Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand, and so on.

There are more than 10 million French-speaking people in Canada, it is one of our official languages. Many parents, even here in Saskatchewan, are sending their children to French immersion schools because they believe that knowing both French and English will be a tremendous asset for their children.

There are many rural communities scattered across Saskatchewan that were settled by French-speaking people from Québec, France and Belgium. (Even from the USA; my grandparents were born in upstate New York and my grandmother spoke French. Unfortunately, that knowledge of French skipped a generation — my father only learned a few words from his mother.) French is dying out in some of those communities, but not all.

Many French-speaking people have migrated to the cities where their numbers have been augmented by French-speaking immigrants. There is a francophone school division that operates schools in a few small towns and most of our cities. Young families are maintaining the language. When I overhear people speaking French in Saskatoon they are almost always from the younger generation. Many immigrants who have neither English nor French as their mother tongue want their children to be fluent in both languages.

With a burgeoning francophone population in the world, the opportunities for mission outreach are also increasing. We here in Canada are ideally placed to learn French to meet that need. The internet gives us access to Christian reading material in French plus opportunities to learn about the culture of other countries. I am a member of the French proofreading committee of our church, so I will suggest a website that contains some of the tracts that we have worked on:  http://gospeltract.ca/fr/index.php

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