The Husain Zada family
By Rev. Canon Dr. Grayhame Bowcott
For two years, they were separated. In August of 2021, when the Taliban regime surprised Afghan and international forces by so quickly assuming control of the country, the Hussain Zada family found themselves torn apart in two directions.
Their eldest daughter, Hasina, had been involved in advocacy for women in Afghan sports and this work was considered to be offensive to the new Taliban government. Hasina’s life had been threatened, and, remarkably, through the bravery of Ukrainian peacekeepers in Afghanistan, Hasina was able to be smuggled out of the country on one of the last flights to leave Kabul before the airport was overtaken by the Taliban militia.
Her family was not so lucky. Hasina’s sister and parents were forced to flee their home country through a long and dangerous journey of Taliban checkpoints and personal sacrifice.
Ultimately, they found themselves harbouring in the neighbouring country of Pakistan, where they found refuge in a small apartment where their only option was to lay low until, through the advocacy of others, they could find a way to leave the country and be reunited with the daughter that had to leave them behind.
This is where the faithfulness of Anglicans enters the story!
Bill Bowden, a parishioner of The Anglican Regional Ministry of Saugeens Shores, Tara and Chatsworth, had heard the story of Afghan women being rescued by Ukrainians and being in need of refugee support in order to settle them here in Canada. Bill worked with a number of generous parishioners and volunteers to help connect these women with refugee sponsorship applications through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Canada (IRCC).
Within the Diocese of Huron, we have a well-experienced network of leaders, headed up by Jane Townshend and Elizabeth Walton, who help local Anglican congregations through the process of refugee sponsorship.
These angels cheer on, plan with, and advise local leaders on the various responsibilities of sponsoring both individuals and families to come to Canada. In our case, St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains was able to sponsor the three members of the Hussain Zada family who had been separated from their daughter.
For more than a year, our application process was tied up with the challenges of international communication, endless paperwork, health concerns, exit visas, financial extortion and the long process of bureaucracy, but our sponsorship team remained steadfast until, finally, the process came to a close on Thursday, August 31.
I can honestly say that Thursday was one of the most profound days in my ministry as a priest: the day when I was able to witness a family who had been broken apart because of war, finally able to reunite in a new country with new dreams and possibilities.
The experience at the airport was overwhelmingly emotional, joyful and, in many ways, sacred. To witness a family able to embrace and laugh and hold hands again after years of separation was, at least from my perspective, to experience what our Church can do for the lives of others at our best. The only word that can describe it: sacred.
That night, the Hussain Zada family was able to celebrate their first meal in Canada (a feast of McDonald’s French fries and smoothies – since all other restaurants were closed) while they hugged and fell asleep in the back seat of my car. When we arrived in the Blue Mountains, a new home had been prepared for them, complete with every item they would need to start a new life together here in our country.
The Hussain Zadas are deeply thankful to all the people who came together to make their life transition possible: the friends and donors, the advisors and advocates, the caring congregations who were willing to risk something new.
“Thank you! You have saved us.” was the last comment shared by the family before we parted for them to finally rest after their two-year journey.
I am deeply proud to be part of a Christian family that was able to make this reunion possible. I pray that others might be inspired to do the same!
The Rev. Canon Dr. Grayhame Bowcott is passionate about fostering congregational relationships and sharing our Anglican vocation with others. He serves as Rector of St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains and as Program Director for the Licentiate in Theology program at Huron University.