This November, as we marked the 2nd anniversary of Tom Fox’s captivity in Iraq, Hopewell Centre found itself in a unique position to carry forward Tom’s ministry and honor his legacy as a peacemaker. At the request of Langley Hill Meeting we opened the doors of our Youth House in Clearbrook as a temporary safe haven for an Iraqi refugee family of seven.
With former clerk Anne Bacon at the helm, Hopewell Centre swung into action and member Susan French and others readied our Youth House. With the help of local Muslim leaders Mohammed Khodr and Zafur Jawaid, Anne was able, immediately upon the family’s arrival in Clearbrook, to set up appointments for them with Social Services, local schools, and medical doctors. Happily, our members provided transportation and donated food, school supplies, games and videos and other personal items. Young Friends Julia Melby and Susan Robare kept a friendly watch over the Iraqi teenagers who had enrolled at their high school. In the meantime, Langley Hill Friends Meeting worked diligently to find additional funding so the family could relocate to more permanent housing. So, after just a brief six weeks, our family was on their way to a new home. And although their stay with us was short, all of us who came close to the family, especially Anne and her kids, Rebecca and Matthew, gained a great deal in exchange.
For those of us who did not personally meet the family, it was a joy to see the children drop their shyness and wave to us as they played outdoors and we entered the Meeting House for first-day worship. Anne joyously reports that the mother’s polite, customary two-cheek kiss escalated to a six-cheek kiss in the course of the month! And through their interpreter, the parents told Anne they had never expected Americans to be so nice, and how impressed they were with the care and concern of the local schools’ teachers and administrators. Of course, it is poignant to also note that the husband and wife slept in the same room where Tom Fox had slumbered and found refuge of his own on return visits from Iraq. Their children also marveled to see Tom’s copy of the Quoran in English!
Langley Hill Meeting and other religious communities who have joined with them will continue to assist these families until the federal government can change their official status and make them available for assistance given other refugees. Recently Anne was able to visit with them in their new home and was pleased with how well the family was doing. They sent their greetings and thanks back to their many friends at Hopewell Center.
Our Meeting is saddened by the death on December 24 of long-time member, Hugh Stabler, at the age of 90. He will be greatly missed.