Please excuse the brevity of this week’s posting. I have a rather full week with family arriving tomorrow so I have been doing the homey tasks of vacuuming, dusting and grocery shopping but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to keep you up-to-date on important news from around the Church.
As I mentioned last week, June 20th was World Refugee Day. I participated in a webinar sponsored by the Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Episcopal Public Policy Network on Monday evening. Much of the information was, for me, a review of things they have presented last fall when the refugee crisis seemed to make the news every day. You can read some of the previous posts in the archives of the Nuts and Bolts Blog but I’ll do a bit of a refresher here.
You may recall that the definition of refugee is different than that of asylum seeker or immigrant. A refugee is a person who is fleeing his/her homeland because it is no longer safe for them to remain there because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, social group or political opinion. The government in place can no longer guarantee their safety. Most important for the discussion you might have with your friends is to remember that there is no other people group that is so well-vetted and securely screened before entering the United States as refugees. Misconception and misunderstanding of the process continues to be common. Once refugees have left their homeland, they find that there are three durable solutions: repatriation to their home country, integration in the country of first asylum – most likely living in a refugee camp – or resettlement in a third country. Of the millions of refugees seeking asylum, only 0.7% will be resettled. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR): “Of the world’s nearly 20,000,000 refugees, UNHCR referred 134,000 for resettlement in 2015. Only 82,000 were resettled.” The group Embrace Refugees has a very informative webpage giving the details of the process which you can find here – http://embracerefugees.org/resettlement/#
Please check out their site so you can answer the concerns and questions of your friends and family.
How can you get involved, you ask? That’s a great question! EMM and EPPN have some suggestions:
- Host a #RefugeesWelcome dinner to support new Americans living in your community. Organizing details and ideas.
- Even though World Refugee Day has passed for this year, you can still watch the Episcopal Migration Ministries and Episcopal Public Policy Network #RefugeesWelcome World Refugee Day educational webinar which first aired on June 20th – https://vimeo.com/171571981
- Celebrate World Refugee Day everyday with your congregation. Plan a special event. The World Refugee Day worship materials and bulletin inserts were designed for June 19th but they could be used anytime to bring the concerns to your congregation.
- Follow Episcopal Migration Ministries and Episcopal Public Policy Network on Facebook and Twitter and watch for social media posts supporting #RefugeesWelcome and the innovative #MyNameIs campaign to support welcome and hospitality for refugees.
- Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network to learn more about how you can work with local and elected leaders to support refugees.
This is also an ideal time to go and speak to those who represent you in congress since they will be home in their districts from July 16th to September 6th. EPPN suggests that you prepare yourself for your visit with the RCUSA toolkit – http://www.rcusa.org/uploads/pdfs/members/Local%20Congressional%20Visit%20Advocacy%20Toolkit_09.16.15.pdf
Study the material with some friends of family or start a group at your church and plan your visit together.
We also have the opportunity to make a difference this November when we go out and vote! Check out their Facebook page #EpiscopaliansVote and visit their webpage to find specific information on public policy issues and how you can take action – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/
On Wednesday of this week, Michigan Radio’s program “Stateside” with Cynthia Canty discussed Michigan’s role in addressing the refugee resettlement issue and heard from Syrian refugees Maan and Bayan who described their experience in their new city of Dearborn. You can listen to their broadcast here – http://michiganradio.org/post/stateside-6222016
The Episcopal News Service shared a video from the Anglican Communion Office which explores the global impact of the refugee crisis – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/06/20/video-refugee-migration-and-the-anglican-communion-2/
There. I think that’s some good information to get you started if you are new to this concern. Please feel free to get in touch with me or with the Rev. Terri Pilarski at Christ Church, Dearborn if you have specific questions. We are both glad to help!
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.
(Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Ministry Director and Contemporary Music Director at Trinity Episcopal Church, The Woodlands, Texas)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review