I’m writing this on May 4th so am faced with the challenge of writing a blog post a few weeks before it will be published. Right now, I’m not sure if a more-timely issue might need to be addressed but I can promise that, if something comes up, I will cover it in the Nuts and Bolts Facebook page. What I have found for you is something that is important to me – and I hope to the rest of the diocese, too!
June 20 has been declared by the United Nations as World Refugee Day, a chance to honor “the resilience and success of the former refugees who bless our communities.” It also serves as a time to reflect upon the circumstances that force people from their homelands. A few weeks ago, the Episcopal News Service (ENS) shared some resources in their blog for marking the event this year. As other resources become available, I will share them with you.
ENS reported that “This year, The Episcopal Church, in partnership with congregations, volunteers and our network of 30 local affiliate offices in 26 states will welcome more than 5,000 refugees to the United States from 32 countries, from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Afghanistan, and Syria.”
I know that I’ve posted a lot about the refugee crisis in the past but lately other issues have seemed to take primacy of place in the news. Yet, I know that every day, more and more people just like you and me must choose to leave everything they know – family, friends, homes, possessions and jobs – to find safety for themselves and their immediate families. And I know that others have been living in questionable conditions in refugee camps for years while nations argue over who can open the borders to them. I’m glad for a day set aside to remember and, perhaps, hear the call to get involved in new ways. Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, Deborah Stein commented to ENS:
With more than 60 million displaced people across the globe, our work to welcome refugees to the United States is more important than ever. To raise awareness and support, Episcopalians across the church are encouraged to find a local World Refugee Day activity or plan one of their own.
- Find a local World Refugee Day event on our interactive events map – www.episcopalchurch.org/WorldRefugeeDay
• Host a #RefugeesWelcome dinner to support new Americans living in your community; ideas are here –http://www.refugeesarewelcome.org/ and in the Refugees Welcome Toolkit – http://www.refugeesarewelcome.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Refugees-Welcome-Toolkit.pdf
- Lift up prayers for refugees in your congregation. Worship materials are here – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/world-refugee-day
- Start a conversation in your congregation and community about how you can be involved in this life-saving work. World Refugee Day bulletin inserts for June 19th will be available in early June on the Episcopal Migration Ministries webpage – http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/ and on the TEC website – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/world-refugee-day
- Volunteer for this life-saving ministry through one of our local partners. The affiliate network map is here – http://bit.ly/EMMpartners.
• Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network to learn more about how you can work with local and elected leaders to support refugees – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/
- Join The EMM and EPPN webinar on June 20, 7 pm, to learn more about the refugee crisis, U.S. resettlement, and how you can be involved in creating a welcoming community for new Americans. Register using this link – http://bit.ly/WRDJune2016
On May 12, EMM and EPPN held a World Refugee Day planning webinar which can be watched on-demand on their Vimeo channel. It will be the most recent video listed – www.vimeo.com/emmrefugees.
You can also get more information about events around the country from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) webpage – http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/us/events/ Perhaps one of these events will inspire you to create something similar in your community!
Jesus said: “…I was a stranger, and you welcomed me…. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 35, 40, NRSV). Let us look for Jesus in the faces of our new neighbors and extend a warm welcome as we share in this gospel ministry together.
Let us pray –
Gracious God, we pray for our newest neighbors, that those families who have sought refuge from the ravages of war and violence may find not only shelter and sustenance, but also a loving and supportive community in which to create a new beginning with dignity. Amen.
~ The Rev Deacon Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee