How soon we forget. It was only 3 months ago that we were stunned by the tragic image of a 3 year-old Syrian boy lying dead on a beach in Turkey and barely 6 months ago that photos of refugees crowded into inflatable rafts covered our news sources. Yet today, because of an attack in Paris by terrorists – not refugees – we are facing strong opposition to any Syrian and Iraqi refugee resettlement. Fear does terrible things. Fear allows us to grasp on to quick and easy answers even if they might be misinformed. Fear paralyzes us from searching out the truth. That’s exactly what we’re seeing around us.
Any of you who know me personally know that I am not political. My passion for this crisis has nothing to do with any partisan politics. The issue is compassion. The issue for me is faithfulness to the Gospel. I can’t look around at the trappings of the Christmas season and all the shopping for gifts and decorations and not wonder why I am here and those Syrian mothers are not. To those of you who have been following the blog and have called or written to your legislators, please keep reading; I’m going to add some important info on another topic before I’m done. But, first, there’s more to say about the refugee resettlement issue.
In the December 1st Advent Advocacy Update webinar, Allison Duvall, Episcopal Migration Ministries’ Manager of Church Relations and Engagement stressed: “The most important thing we can do right is advocate….If we don’t speak out, there may be no refugees to welcome.” To speak out confidently, we must be informed; we must know the truth of the refugee vetting process so that we can correct misconceptions. Please read through this chart, if you haven’t already – https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states
Once you understand the process, call or write your representatives, senators and governor. If HR 4038 passes the Senate, the vetting process could be stalled indefinitely. For the text of this bill, check out last week’s blog (November 27).
It is also important that we express our opposition to any omnibus funding bill that includes riders stopping, pausing or defunding refugee resettlement. I learned about this in the webinar. An omnibus spending bill allows smaller funding requests to be grouped together to ease voting. Often special interest groups attach riders to these bills to gain support for their personal interests by other members of Congress. It is likely that riders affecting refugee resettlement will be added to the bill when it comes to a vote in the next week. The bill must be passed by December 11th to avoid a threat of government shutdown. The last thing we want to see happen would be the threat of a shutdown blamed on refugee resettlement. This would certainly add more negative press to the welcoming process. As a reminder, here’s the link that will bring you to The Episcopal Public Policy Network page providing tips for how you might advocate and a link to send a letter to your legislators and governor – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/RefugeeAdvocacy
The offices of our elected official keep track of the calls that come in. Before Thanksgiving, for every person who expressed support for refugee resettlement, 100 people voiced their opposition. We have to let our voices be heard!!
The December 1st webinar was the first of three opportunities that Episcopal Migration Ministries and The Episcopal Public Policy Network are hosting to keep us up-to-date. You can also register for the next two which will take place on Tuesday, December 8th and Tuesday, December 15th at 2:00 pm EST at the same link – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/RefugeeAdvocacy
And here’s the link to watch any of the previous EMM Refugee videos.
As promised, before I close for this week, I want to alert you to another opportunity for learning. As you know if you’re following the news this week, the International Climate Change Conference – the Paris Conference of Parties – is taking place. Representing our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is an eight-member team which has been sharing through social media a series of prayer cards that draw on Scripture, meditation and prayer for the work being done in Paris. You can find out more about the delegation and their work at – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/share-prayer-climate-conference-team-december-3-webinar-examines-climate-change
By the time you read this, the webinar hosted by the delegation will have been broadcast but I will post the link to their video as soon as it’s available for you to watch. And, check out this link from Jayce Hafner, Domestic Policy Analyst for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society which highlights ways you can be informed and involved for the health of our planet – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/app/document/10534128
There’s so much we can do – so many ways to get involved and share the light of Christ this Advent season. Let us not be quick to forget the faces of those in rubber rafts or that of a tiny boy child on the beach.
Let us pray –
open our eyes that we may see the face of the infant Jesus in the face of refugees;
open our ears that we may hear people’s cries for justice and offer food, clothing, and shelter to those who have nothing;
open our hearts that we may welcome the stranger as Emmanuel,
as God come near.
Help us to bring love, hope and faith
where they are needed.
Let us not be afraid to protect the weak or to defend the poor.
May we do all this with your help. Amen.
— From “A Refugee Prayer Vigil” by the Rev. Terri Pilarski
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee