THE Anglican Church of Canada has appealed for funds to help it serve the 40,000 people evacuated by wildfires that have devastated the interior of British Columbia.
Thousands of people have fled to Kamloops, a city in south-central British Columbia, to ask for assistance from St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral and St George’s Church. More evacuees have fled to churches in Prince George, in the north. Smaller towns, such as Merritt and Lillooet, have taken in elderly people from nursing homes into their communities and are caring for them, the Church in the region has reported.
Firefighters from Australia have flown in to help the Canadian military put out the fires, which began two weeks ago. Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, said that the fires were expected to worsen unless there was heavy rain. No casualties have so far been reported.
The Bishop of the Territory of the People, where the fires are raging, the Rt Revd Barbara Andrews, said on Tuesday: “We have 160 active fires in our area with the largest number still out of control. The air is very smoky, and people are being urged to use caution. There has been loss of homes and business, but no one knows the real damage yet. Four of the clergy are among the evacuated, and many of our lay leadership.
“We are responding as best we can as a faith community: we are praying hard, and giving folks a place to go to pray. Prayer vigils have and will be held in as many communities as possible. Our cathedral is opening its doors for folks to come to just hang out and get out of the smoke, as a child-friendly place for families to gather just to be.
“Our clergy are in all the evacuation centres, providing a ministry of presence to those who have been displaced, and those providing care for them. Our laity are everywhere, as volunteers, providing help in so many ways.”
She said that funds were urgently needed to help provide support to those affected.
“We are in need of funds to support our ministry now. This morning we gave each of the clergy cheques to provide them with the funds to help meet the needs of those who are evacuated, with time to provide for base needs. A long-term plan will be put in place once we have helped people with the most immediate needs, and have a better sense of the damage done by the wildfires.
“Our plea is for the wider Church to hold us in prayer.”