The images of refugee children evoke deep emotional responses within us, and yet we are sometimes uncertain about how we should respond. There are questions that range from logistics of resettlement to those of national security. Our response, as always, as a people of faith needs to be formed through the prayerful reading of scripture:
Exodus 22:21 – You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Jeremiah 7:5-7 - If you do not oppress the alien...then I will dwell with you in this place...
Matthew 25:31-46 -... I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
Hebrews 13:1-2- ...show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels
We also remember that Jesus family experienced what it was like to flee to another country, and to be refugees in a strange land (Matthew 2).
So what are we to do? How are we to be God's people during this crisis?
work with congregations that are interested in either sponsoring a individual/family or would like to work in partnership with other faith communities. In some areas, an individual congregation is discouraged from solo sponsoring due to issues of dependency.
DMV Resettlement Organizations
In Northern VA:
For More Info Contact Nancy T Fox: email@example.com
From the UNHCR: as of year-end 2016 (reported June, 2017)
How many refugees, forcibly displaced and asylees are there?
· 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide – as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations:
o 22.5 million are refugees (almost 4 times the population of the entire DC Metro Area)
o 40.3 million are IDP’s (Internally Displaced -haven’t crossed a border)
o 2.8 million are asylum seekers, as in Europe.
· 51% are children under age 18 (compared to 31% of world population at large).
· More than half – 55% of refugees worldwide – came from just 3 countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.
· On average, 1 person is newly displaced about every 3 seconds – down from less than 2 seconds in 2015.
· About 1/113 people in the world have been forcibly displaced.
· These numbers do not count those displaced by climate change, domestic or drug violence.
Where are they?
· 84% are hosted by developing countries, with the least developed countries providing asylum to 28% of the global total.
· 30% are hosted in Africa.
· 26% are hosted in the Middle East (between 1/3-1/6 of entire population in both Lebanon and Jordan).
· 17% are hosted in Europe, including Turkey.
· In 2016, 552,200 refugees returned to their countries of origin, though often in less than ideal conditions – that is just over 2% of refugees and asylees.
· 189,300 were referred for resettlement – just over 0.8% of the refugees, and less than 0.3% of all those forcibly displaced.
· The major hosting countries in order are: Turkey (2.9 million), Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Uganda, Ethiopia, Jordan, Germany, DR Congo, Kenya.
Those are the numbers…but refugees are not statistics; each has a name and a face. Each one is precious in God’s eyes. Each has a story of suffering and loss, but also of resourcefulness, courage and resilience. Each is worthy of our respect. God invites us to join in the work of redeeming their stories. What steps can you take?
1) Help with resettlement in your local area:
Though refugee admissions are greatly reduced, refugees continue to arrive in the DMV area. We are mostly receiving SIV’s from Iraq and Afghanistan (Special Immigrant Visas – those who helped American forces with translation, etc., and their families).
As a church: Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA) is actively seeking congregations to partner with them in resettling families; they have set various possible levels of involvement that range from holding an in-kind donation drive to setting up an apartment to co-sponsoring and mentoring a family.
Contact: Kiersten Rossetto Nassar at 202-723-3000 ext. 284 or RossettoK@LssNca.org
LSS/NCA’s Maryland, DC and Virginia offices are also seeking individual volunteer drivers, tutors, in-kind donations, etc.
Tutor refugee parents or children in English: Solutions in Hometown Connections,
a local grassroots NGO to harness experience and know-how to help resettling families improve English and learn American life skills. https://www.shconnections.org/
2) Advocate for refugees:
· LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services): https://lirs.org/support-refugee-resettlement/. Sign up to receive periodic alerts about refugee-related issues and easy tools and suggestions for whom to contact, how, and suggested messaging. See the LSS/NCA Good Neighbor flyer below.
3) Educate yourself, your congregation, and your neighbors:
· Plan ahead for World Refugee Sunday in June: http://www.refugeehighway.net/world-refugee-sunday.html
· Hold a showing of “To Breathe Free,” the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance video about Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church’s experience co-sponsoring a refugee family: https://pda.pcusa.org/pda/resource/to-breathe-free/
· Do a book study of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis, Bauman, Soerens, Smeir, 2016.
4) Engage with the Global Crisis:
Support our historical Presbyterian partners at the center of the global refugee crisis in Syria and Lebanon: 1) designate your gift to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance for DR000081–Middle East; or 2) support the Presbyterian Synod of Syria/Lebanon, Synod of the Nile (Egypt), and Iraq in their work with displaced and refugees through The Outreach Foundation: https://www.theoutreachfoundation.org/updates/2015/9/9/the-refugee-crisis-explained
Praise God for his love and good purposes for all people of the world. Pray the Lord’s Prayer through the eyes of refugees, as if you and your own children or loved ones had been displaced by violence or war and were seeking a place of refuge.
Pray for peace and for God to raise up peacemakers around the world. Pray for Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, D.R. Congo, South Sudan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Columbia … Pray also for stability in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries hosting large numbers of refugees.
Pray for the UN’s refugee agency and other humanitarian and mission organizations that are seeking to meet essential needs for over 65 million refugees globally, with far too few resources. Pray for stable countries and secure people to give generously.
Ask God to heal the traumatized hearts and memories of those who have witnessed war or suffered violence, and even of those who have fought or committed violent acts. May God give them hope and a future.
Children make up more than half of the world’s refugees. Many Syrian and other children have been out of school for up to six years. Pray for opportunities for refugee children and youth to learn, to have hope, to dream for the future, to have courage to rebuild.
Pray for refugee women, especially widows and singles. May God protect them from those who would take advantage of their vulnerability. May they know that they are precious to God.
Pray for refugees in the greater DC area and for churches, volunteers and others that are supporting them as they resettle, learn English, seek work, and find a new home and life here.
The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness has compiled the following information to assist in refugee advocacy efforts
Rev. Scott Parker serves as a Presbyterian Church Associate for Ecumenical Partnerships working with the Middle East Council of Churches. He is married to Rev. Elmarie Parker, PCUSA Mission Co-worker and Regional Liaison to Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. You can give online through the following link:
If this doesn’t work, just go to https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate and type in E340102
You can designate the “Strong Kids/Strong Emotions” Project in the comments section of the final payment page.
For those who would like to give by check, the gift can be made out/sent to:
Presbyterian Church (USA)
PO Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
Memo Line: E340102—Strong Kids, Strong Emotions
Hit this link If you would like to see a 2 minute video promotional about the “Strong Kids/Strong Emotions” Project.
If you would like to hear Scott talk about the “Strong Kids/Strong Emotions Project” hit this link:
For further information, feel free to contact Romana Campos at firstname.lastname@example.org from Trinity Presbyterian Church of Arlington. If you or your church decides to make a donation, would you be so kind as to please let us know? We would like to know the scope of our fundraising for this small project. Thank you. Scott Parker’s contact information is email@example.com
Please spread the word!