If you have been a Nuts and Bolts reader for a while you will remember the many posts in which we looked at some of the ways we might support refugee resettlement in conjunction with the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM). I was excited to see a new initiative from EMM that was just launched last week – Partners in Welcome. Before I tell you more about this new adventure, let me share with you the position of The Episcopal Church on refugee advocacy in case you haven’t seen the actual document. Here’s part of the introduction:
Advocating for Refugee Protection and Resettlement
The Episcopal Church
In the simplest terms, a refugee is someone who has had to flee their home to escape persecution, war, or other disaster and seeks refuge, or protection, elsewhere. The legal definition of refugee in the United States is based on international treaties and domestic U.S. law. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, a person is a refugee if they are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin because they have suffered or fear they will suffer persecution based on nationality, race, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Refugees come from all over the world, depending on current crises and conflicts. Right now, there are 25.4 million individuals identified by UN Refugee Agency as refugees.
Episcopal Church Policy on Refugee Issues
The Episcopal Church has official policy from General Convention on protecting refugees dating back to the 1930s. Those policies have spanned from decrying discriminatory and restrictive immigration policies to affirming the importance of congregation-level engagement in welcoming refugees and immigrants. The Episcopal Church affirms the sanctity of asylum and condemns policies that aim to criminalize all migrants or weaken human rights protections for migrants. With a deep understanding of the dignity of every human being, The Episcopal Church strongly denounces the xenophobia that undergirds much of the anti-migrant and anti-refugee policies and treatment that exists around the world.
To address large-scale crises and to offer life-saving protections, the Episcopal Church has long supported a robust refugee resettlement program for those fleeing their countries to escape persecution, oppression, and war. Through the Episcopal Migration Ministries, our Church has worked in public-private partnership with the U.S. Government to resettle nearly 95,000 refugees since the 1980s. The Episcopal Church is committed to continuing this tradition of welcoming refugees to peaceful homes and hopeful futures in the United States.
Check out the rest of this informative paper which will provide you details regarding priority issue areas: maintaining family unity, building a pathway to citizenship, protecting Dreamers, enacting reasonable and compassionate enforcement & security measures, public charge, and establishing long-term solutions for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.
General Convention 2015 gave us many resolutions addressing refugee advocacy which provided me with much to share with you over the last few years. Well, our last General Convention in 2018 also passed a detailed resolution that should help us continue our work of welcome and support and which seems timely to share this week:
D009: Christian Principles for Responding to Human Migration
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church recognize that human migration has always been part of the human condition, and that human migration will continue in future, and will likely increase due to any number of variables including the effects of climate change on human habitat, economic instability, or ongoing war and conflict, and remembering the call in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to welcome the stranger, building stronger and more diverse community: “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19) and “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me; …. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 35, 40); and be it further
Resolved, That this General Convention set forth these principles to guide our church’s response to human migration, including internal migration, in the future:
- We recognize the fundamental human rights of all people as expressed in our Baptismal Covenant and we reaffirm that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to all refugees and both regular and irregular migrants;
2) We remember that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were refugees, as they were forced to flee into a foreign land to escape violence;
3) We call on all governments to keep their commitments and legal obligations to respect the rights and dignity of all people, including access to justice and social services, while recognizing the complexity of developing just immigration policies in any country, and the legitimate need to protect borders and address security threats to sovereign nations;
4) We commit the church to learning and engaging migration issues as part of the Jesus Movement, sacredly holding the voices and leadership of migrants themselves and honoring their leadership in this process;
5) We will endeavor to learn and address root causes of migration and advocate for just solutions with Anglican/Episcopal, ecumenical, and interfaith partners;
6) We acknowledge the connection between U.S. policies, and the policies of other states, and the root drivers of migration, including climate change, armed conflict, and disruption of local economies through global trade policies;
7) We stress the importance of demonstrating hospitality and welcome as Christian values at the local level, preaching hospitality and positive storytelling to overcome xenophobia;
8) We insist that the United States of America and other powerful, wealthy nations, and all nations to the best of their ability, contribute to resettlement, establish and maintain safe and orderly humanitarian protection for refugees, internally displaced persons, and other migrants seeking long-term solutions and safety;
9) We call on all nations to maintain family unity and safety during migration;
10) We insist that economic and foreign relationships among governments should not increase the need of migration due to economic hardships, persecution, and violence;
11) We insist that governments strive to maintain conditions which are conducive to internal stability and employment opportunity;
13) In the event that people are forced to migrate, we insist that our governments address the drivers holistically, without racial, ethnic, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental ability, health status, or religious prejudice;
14) We insist that our governments adhere to the internationally accepted principle known as non-refoulement, that stipulates that countries should not return migrants and refugees to unsafe conditions in their home countries or other countries;
15) We recognize the links between migrants in vulnerable transit situations and human trafficking and other dangers, and will seek to establish and maintain robust, safe, and orderly routes for refugees;
15) We urge governments to expand refugee resettlement as a humanitarian response that offers individuals safety and opportunity;
16) We recognize that displacement due to climate change already happens and will increase, and we insist that our governments and the international community must commit to development of long-term protection solutions for persons displaced by climate change; and be it further
Resolved, That this General Convention recognize the process underway at the United Nations to establish a Global Compact on Refugees and a Global Compact on Migration, processes that have included advocacy by The Episcopal Church Representative to the UN and by the Office of Government Relations Refugee and Immigration Policy Advisor and be it further
Resolved, That this General Convention urge the Office of the Presiding Bishop to ensure continued representation of The Episcopal Church at the United Nations and other multinational consultations with faith communities on refugee and migrant issues, alongside the Anglican Communion Office, Lutheran World Federation, and other ecumenical and interfaith partners in responding to the global refugee crisis; and be it further
Resolved, That this General Convention encourage all congregations and dioceses to learn about the intricacies of migration, including root causes through the resources provided by Episcopal Migration Ministries and its Partners in Welcome network and engage in aiding migrants to the best of their ability.
See the UNHCR website for information on the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration: http://www.unhcr.org/
This brings us finally to Partners in Welcome which is a “network of individuals, groups, and organizations coming together to build a community of support and solidarity for welcoming newcomers to our country.” Their website explains that this initiative welcomes anyone who is interested to learn, share and collaborate to make our communities more welcoming to newcomers. To participate with Partners in Welcome, you need to register on their website. Membership benefits include:
- Access to member site, including resource library, discussion forum, live and recorded webinars
- Staff and network support for local ministry discernment and development
- Access to the Partners in Welcome member network
- A calendar of events with regularly scheduled training and continuing education
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes the significance of this movement in his video:
I submitted my membership application. I hope you will, too!! For more information and answers to your questions, contact Melissa Coulston, Partners in Welcome Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)
Let us pray –
Almighty God, no one is a stranger to you
And no one is ever far from your loving care.
In your kindness, watch over immigrants, 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 kindness to strangers
And those in need.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord
Who, too, was a refugee and migrant
Who traveled to another land
Searching for a home. Amen. (Source: Nouwen Network)
~The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council