The turkey is almost ready for the oven and the pies are cooling on the counter. It’s that wonderful time of year again to give thanks to our God for all of our many blessings. Many of us will join with family and friends around a table laden with delicious food. Not everyone is so lucky. Recently, the news has been filled with stories of tragedies in our country and around the world. While we enjoy our dinners, let us remember those less fortunate in our prayers and offerings.
One group that I have written about over the last few months continues to need our attention. Since the terrorist attacks in Paris and other parts of the world, the backlash of hatred toward Muslims in the US has been increasing. Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post reported on November 23:
Looks like fear — not turkey — is the main course being served in our country this week. Political opportunists running for president have been cooking up a heaping platter of anti-Muslim sentiment since the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. They’ve geared us up for an epic “Hategiving” with their ugly proposals to shut down mosques, register American Muslims and reject Syrian refugees who aren’t Christians.
You can find the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/attacks-on-american-muslims-are-growing-uglier-by-the-day-it-must-stop/2015/11/23/a55d99d8-91e9-11e5-b5e4-279b4501e8a6_story.html
And last week, the House of Representatives passed House Bill HR 4038 which will essentially stop all refugee resettlement from Syria and Iraq if it passes the Senate next week. The President has said that he will veto the bill but it was passed with a “veto-proof” majority which may make it just a bit tougher. Here is the text of that bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4038/text
Check out the Nuts And Bolts Call to Action here to get more info on how this legislation will effect refugee resettlement – http://www.edomi.org/resettlement_bill_call-to-action/
But, here’s an action item for you, if you didn’t respond to this call already. There’s still time for you to contact your Senators and express your support for refugee resettlement. And it’s easy! All you have to do is go to the Episcopal Public Policy Network webpage and provide the information requested- http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/app/write-a-letter?3&engagementId=145674
You will then see a letter that will go directly to your legislators and governor. You can also add your own stories of positive experiences with refugees in your community if you’d like. And, you can call their offices directly and speak to one of their aids. Every call is counted! Here’s a sample script if you’re not sure what to say:
I’m a constituent from (city) and I support the resettlement of Syrian refugees. I urge the Senator / Representative / Governor to represent me and other constituents who seek to welcome Syrian refugees. As an Episcopalian, my faith calls me to welcome the stranger. I am proud to live and work alongside refugees in my community every day.
Here’s a link to the Congressional Toolkit from Refugee Council USA which has other very helpful information about having a conversation with the public officials –
As I wrote last week, much of negative reaction arises from lack of accurate information. The vetting process for Syrian refugees is the most rigorous in our history. The process takes between three and four years, so it isn’t as though we are opening the doors of aircraft and ships and inviting everyone aboard. Please become familiar with the process so that you can speak out with accurate information to your friends and neighbors.
The following is a very easy-to-understand description of the process.
Of course, the best and most up-to-date information can be found at the home of our friends, Episcopal Migration Ministries (http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/ ) If you haven’t participated in their Rapid Response Webinar, Click Here to view the video.
Get involved. During Advent, watch the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan website, “Weekly Connection” and “The Friday Morning Grind” for area events supporting resettlement. Maybe you’d like to consider sponsoring a vigil, a prayer service, an informational workshop with your congregation. “We Welcome Refugees,” a movement sponsored by World Vision and World Relief among other agencies, is asking that we celebrate December 13 as National Refugee Sunday – http://wewelcomerefugees.com/
***Just off the press!!!*** United Thank Offering has created a matching grant program! During “Advent: Journey from Gratitude to Hope,” UTO will match the first $30,000 contributed by December 31, 2015, as an offering for Episcopal Migration Ministries. UTO president Sandra Squires commented:
“Jesus was part of a refugee family. We should be able to relate to the upheaval of today’s refugees through our love of him. For Advent and Christmas 2015, Episcopalians are asked to express gratitude with increased prayers of thanksgiving and daily giving to their Blue Boxes in remembrance of Jesus and today’s refugees.”
Start filling those little blue boxes with your “treasures” and your notes of thanksgiving!! You can also contribute online. For more information go to – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/united-thank-offering-board-presents-december-challenge-benefit-episcopal
So, when you sit down for your Thanksgiving dinner and offer prayers of gratitude, please remember those for whom Thanksgiving is still a hope for the future and then, when the dishes are done and the food is put away, decide how you can get involved to welcome the strangers and friends we haven’t met yet.
Let us pray…
God our strength and our redeemer,
We ask for your loving presence and for your peace
to be with the people of Syria, of all religious traditions and of none.
Be with those in positions of leadership,
that their decisions may hasten peace and bring an end to violence.
Be with those who are in fear for their safety and their lives.
Be with those who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones.
Give them strength and courage.
And be with us, as we listen and discern your call to us.
Equip us and empower us to be witnesses to your love –
as advocates and as servants, as ministers of welcome and of hope for Syrians
and all those displaced by war and violence.
In your Holy name we pray, Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review