A parish has sent a petition with 10,000 signatures to the Canadian Parliament early last week, requesting that three Christian Palestinians, who have sought asylum in a Catholic church, be granted residency status on humanitarian grounds.
Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings presented the petition on behalf of the parishioners of Notre-Dame-de-Grace Parish in Montreal.
Nabih Ayoub, his wife, Therese, and his brother, Khalil, have been living in the Catholic church basement since Jan. 30. They moved there after they received notice from Citizenship and Immigration Canada that their application for refugee status was rejected and they would be deported to Lebanon.
The three Melkite Catholics lived in a Palestinian refugee camp, called Ein el Hilweh, in southern Lebanon before coming to Canada.
In addition to providing housing and food the three seniors, parishioners have also taken political action. They organized a petition in all Montreal parishes and submitted a report to Citizenship and Immigration Canada last month, arguing that Nabih, 69, Therese, 62 and Khalil, 67, should not be deported.
Research conducted by parishioners shows that the Ayoubs would likely not find work in Lebanon because of their advanced age and because refugees only have legal access to some 70 trades in Lebanon. Without work, they would end up returning to a refugee camp, where housing is near impossible to find, since all of it is already occupied. Furthermore, they would not be allowed to bring construction materials into the camp to construct homes.
The report also includes photos of two Palestinian refugee camps, which show less-than-humane living conditions – dilapidated housing and raw sewage in the walkways.
“The evidence submitted by the parish shows that there was insufficient knowledge of the situation when the judgment to deport the refugees was made,” said parish council president Claire Doran.
The Ayoubs are grateful to the parish for granting them asylum.
“The people of this parish live the words of Christ: ‘When I was naked, you clothed me; when I was hungry, you gave me to eat’,” said Nabih. “These people are saints. This parish is truly Catholic.”