Irony of ironies or incredibly appropriate?? June 20th is World Refugee Day. This year it falls right in the midst of our nation’s battle to fight our President’s attempt to deter refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants by separating the children who cross the border from their parents. I would guess that almost every third post I have read on Facebook over the last few days has addressed the cruelty and immorality of this practice. And just when it didn’t seem as though it could get worse, members of the President’s team have tried to use the Bible to justify their decisions. here’s always a big risk in quoting Scripture out of context which both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders learned firsthand this week.
This tragedy for families has been so distressing, it’s hard to focus on anything else yet, rather than rehash all the negativity, I’d like to offer some action items which might help us to accomplish a change in the outcome of this despicable policy. I received an email from Lucy Broemel, REpiscopalefugee and Immigration Policy Advisor for the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations suggesting ways we might commemorate World Refugee Day:
Every year on June 20, the international community joins together to celebrate World Refugee Day. There are currently more than 22 million refugees worldwide and more than 1 million of those are eligible for resettlement to a third country. Episcopal Migration Ministries has been welcoming refugees to the U.S. for nearly two decades as the resettlement agency of the Episcopal Church.
Last year, Episcopal Migration Ministries resettled 3,187 refugees and 906 Special Immigration Visa recipients to safety in 30 communities across the U.S. Unfortunately, due to changes in processing times and the multiple refugee bans, the U.S. is on track to resettle the lowest number of refugees this year since the program began in 1980.
Once resettled, refugees become critical members of our local communities. They bring business and professional skills, valuable perspectives, and contribute meaningfully to making our country a richer place. Episcopal Church policy passed by General Convention has long recognized the importance of resettlement to protect persecuted persons.
Take action to celebrate and honor refugees worldwide!
Contact your elected officials to share that you support refugee resettlement
- Tune into a free webinar on June 18 at 4 PM ET titled “Our 1939 Moment: Continuing the Legacy of Welcome” to learn about the Episcopal Church’s history of welcoming refugees and opportunities for welcoming today.
- Listen to “Hometown” the podcast hosted by Episcopal Migration Ministries. https://episcopalmigrationministries.org/hometown/
- Host a free film festival this World Refugee Day https://episcopalmigrationministries.org/worldrefugeeday/
- One of the most tangible ways you can show your support now for refugees is by making a financial gift to EMM. By making a gift, you not only stand with and support an historic ministry of The Episcopal Church in a time of great need, you ensure refugees are welcomed to a haven of safety and opportunity. Give securely online at org/Give or, text “EMM” to 41444.
Bishop Curry also released his 2018 World Refugee Day letter:
June 15, 2018
As an ardent supporter of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), we invite you to join us by making a gift in support of our shared efforts. Every year on June 20th, EMM observes World Refugee Day. This is an important season for us to celebrate the strength, resilience, and contributions of refugees to communities all over the world – and for us to deepen our commitment to the work of welcome and refugee resettlement.
We as a Church must act now and put our support, resources, and prayers behind this nearly 80-year-old ministry of ours. The Episcopal Church has long supported a robust refugee resettlement program for those fleeing their countries to escape persecution, oppression, and war. Through EMM, our Church has worked in public-private partnership with the U.S. government to resettle thousands of refugees since its inception in 1980. However, in the past year, all that has been threatened, and we are at risk of watching the entire refugee network collapse. We are living in a time when the political conversation and media messages about refugees too often veer to the negative and dehumanizing. Into this challenging environment, we are called, as followers of Jesus, to share the Good News of God: to be ministers of welcome and bearers of hope. To remind each and every one we meet that welcoming the stranger in love is the only way. The Episcopal Church is committed to continuing this tradition of welcoming refugees to peaceful homes and hopeful futures in the United States, and together, we can do so much more.
The opportunity to change lives for the better is before us. In collaboration with local partners, churches, and communities, we provide crucial services for thousands of refugee families: English language and cultural orientation classes, employment services, school enrollment, childcare, and initial assistance. In recent months, EMM welcomed a man and his four daughters, three of whom were born as refugees. We provided a new home to a lawyer who won a case against a government official in his home country and had to flee for his life soon thereafter. We brought a husband and wife to safety, and wait and work with them as they struggle against the pressures of our times to bring their two children to America.
Our ministry is vital and vibrant, gut-wrenching and shocking, effective and ongoing. EMM has compiled several resources to celebrate refugees like these, and there are a number of ways to participate, including: host a free film screening at your church or home, find local events, and many others. Learn more about this work and celebrate World Refugee Day by visiting us online here.
One of the most tangible ways you can show your support now for refugees is by making a financial gift. By making a gift to EMM, you not only stand with and support an historic ministry of The Episcopal Church in a time of great need, you ensure refugees are welcomed to a haven of safety and opportunity.
There are many ways you can make your gift:
- Give securely online by clicking here
- “EMM” to 41444 (standard messaging rates may apply)
- Call us 212-716-6002 to give over the phone
Thank you in advance for gifts that do so much. This is good and holy work that you make happen, and every dollar you give is used to make a difference in people’s lives and give the gift of hope. We ask you to dig deep. Our prayer for all of you is that as you are moved to give and share, you will know that the gifts you make are literally saving lives.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop & Primate
You can also click here to watch the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s 2018 World Refugee Day video message.
Here are some other resources for World Refugee Day:
- Find an event on World Refugee Day near you
- Host a Refugee Sunday event
- Check out the Refugee Council USA Report Card tracking refugee arrivals
- While we support refugee resettlement, we also must act to put a stop to the terrible policy of separating families at the border. Episcopal News Service reported on this again this week. According to their report, family separations aren’t just happening at our borders; they are occurring nationwide and not only from those attempting to enter illegally but also for those who have requested asylum. Under international law, anyone fleeing violence or persecution can request asylum for their protection yet AG Sessions declared this week that those seeking asylum because of domestic or gang violence will no longer be considered on those grounds.
Many faith leaders, including Presiding Bishop Curry, signed an ecumenical and interfaith letter opposing the administration’s policy:
Recently, the Administration announced that it will begin separating families and criminally prosecuting all people who enter the U.S. without previous authorization. As religious leaders representing diverse faith perspectives, united in our concern for the wellbeing of vulnerable migrants who cross our borders fleeing from danger and threats to their lives, we are deeply disappointed and pained to hear this news.
We affirm the family as a foundational societal structure to support human community and understand the household as an estate blessed by God. The security of the family provides critical mental, physical and emotional support to the development and wellbeing of children. Our congregations and agencies serve many migrant families that have recently arrived in the United States. Leaving their communities is often the only option they have to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm. Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children.
As we continue to serve and love our neighbor, we pray for the children and families that will suffer due to this policy and urge the Administration to stop their policy of separating families.
His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Diocesan Legate and Director of the Ecumenical Office
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
Mr. Azhar Azeez President
Islamic Society of North America
The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton, PA
Chair, Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Senior Bishop George E. Battle, Jr.
Presiding Prelate, Piedmont Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Bishop H. Kenneth Carter, Jr.
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop Episcopal Church (United States)
The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister & President
United Church of Christ
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev. David Guthrie
President, Provincial Elders’ Conference
Moravian Church Southern Province
Mr. Glen Guyton
Mennonite Church USA
The Rev. Teresa Hord Owens
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Union for Reform Judaism
Mr. Anwar Khan
Islamic Relief USA
The Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller
President, Provincial Elders’ Conference
Moravian Church Northern Province
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rabbi Jonah Pesner
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Rev. Don Poest
Interim General Secretary
The Rev. Eddy Alemán
Candidate for General Secretary
Reformed Church in America
Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III
Presiding Bishop, The Eighth Episcopal District
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
The Rev. Phil Tom
International Council of Community Churches
Mr. Jim Winkler
General Secretary & President
National Council of Churches USA
Senior Bishop McKinley Young
Presiding Prelate, Third Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Legislation eliminating this policy is scheduled to be addressed by Congress this week. Two bills have been submitted by Republicans and one by Democrats. Senator Diane Feinstein (D) of California and 31 of her colleagues will be introducing legislation to halt the separation of immigrant families titled Keep Families Together Act. On her website, she explains:
The Keep Families Together Act was developed in consultation with child welfare experts to ensure the federal government is acting in the best interest of children. The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Children’s Law Center, Young Center for Immigrant Rights and the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Please keep this process in prayer. If you haven’t already, you can let your law-makers know how you feel on the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) website. Their site allows you to enter your information and then they do all the work sending your letter to the appropriate legislators.
General Convention is only a few weeks away. We will be considering at least six resolutions reinforcing The Episcopal Church’s position on immigration, refugees, and migration. Pray for us as we seek to represent our diocese – that’s all of us – while voting our consciences, and then look for the resolutions upon our return.
Speaking of resolutions, I will be in Austin from July 2 to the 14th as one of your deputies. There will be no new blogs on the 9th and the 16th; however, I will be updating the Nuts and Bolts Facebook page almost daily so check in to see how we’re doing.
Let us pray –
God, no one is a stranger to you
And no one is ever far from your loving care.
In your kindness watch over migrants, refugees and asylum seekers,
those separated from their loved ones,
those who are lost,
and those who have been exiled from their homes.
Bring them safely to the place where they long to be,
and help us always to show your kindness to strangers
and those in need.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
who too was a refugee and migrant
who travelled to another land
searching for a home. Amen.
The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council