Try to imagine being one of more than 900 Jewish passengers on a ship named the MS St Louis, heading to Havana, Cuba, from Hamburg, Germany, in 1939, in search of safe haven from Nazi persecution, and to start a new life.
The Cuban government decided to not accept the Jewish passengers in spite of the majority having Cuban visas. They attempted to negotiate with the Cuban government for over a week and at the same time reached out to the South American countries who also refused to receive them.
They sailed by the coast of Florida requesting the United States to accept them, but the United States would not, and ultimately the last hope would be Canada.
At the time, the Canadian Minister of Immigration and the Prime Minister of Canada also rejected their request, so the St. Louis, with more than 900 Jews, returned to Europe where more than a third of them were subsequently murdered in the concentration camps.
Interestingly, in 1976, there was a movie produced titled Voyage of the Damned inspired by the events surrounding the MS St Louis.
In 1997, David Demian, the Director of Watchmen for the Nations had a revelation from the Holy Spirit that this was a root issue related to Canada’s destiny that needed to be dealt with.
On a personal level, we all have root issues that need to be dealt with as well as nations.
Through the efforts of Canadian Christians, funds were raised to bring the survivors from the St. Louis now living around the world to Ottawa where in unity the Body of Christ could repent in person to them. Amazingly, there were about 25 survivors plus their spouses who agreed to come, although many with initial suspicion that a group of Christians might have other motives.
The events took place in the Chateau Laurier Hotel over two days with the survivors, and hosted by 250 Christians of all denominations from across Canada.
The repentance included an Ontario pastor who was the great-nephew of the Immigration Minister for Canada at the time the St Louis was denied landing in Canada, who repented on behalf of his uncle, his family, and Canada. His sincerity led the survivors to embrace him warmly.
There was a formal dinner that seemed to be a major breakthrough for the survivors in their acceptance of the repentance.
We heard comments that warmed our hearts from some of the survivors:
“Maybe there is a God.”
“I can’t figure out why these Christians are repenting for things that happened before they were born.”
“I was very suspicious about coming but this group is very sincere about their faith and I am so glad I came.”
“These Christians just loved on us.”
What is so important is that what the Body of Christ does in the spiritual realm has an impact in the natural, so years later both the United States and the Canadian governments apologized to the survivors.
May we see such unity in the Churches in the days and years ahead.
John Grady writes about faith and lives in Fort St. John.