"On the second Sunday of Advent, Alison B. of Williston Immanuel United Church in Portland, ME shares her reflection on Why We Welcome. To read more about Williston-Immanuel United Church's work with refugees and asylum seekers, see this article in United Church News. https://www.ucc.org/news_churches_around_maine_welcome_asylum_seekers_from_africa_in_varied_ways_07192019"
"Why do we welcome? Let me count the ways…
The 'Why We Welcome' series, launched during Advent 2019, asks the United Church of Christ churches around the country to answer the question: Why do we welcome refugees and asylum seekers? As the U.S. government slashes the number of refugees allowed to enter the country and turns away those desperately seeking asylum at our borders, God's word made flesh in Christ continues to be lived and spoken boldly through God's children and their commitment to welcome.
The 'Why We Welcome' series, launched during Advent 2019, asks United Church of Christ churches around the country to answer the question: Why do we welcome refugees and asylum seekers? As the U.S. government slashes the number of refugees allowed to enter the country and turns away those desperately seeking asylum at our borders, God's word made flesh in Christ continues to be lived and spoken boldly through God's children and their commitment to welcome.
Our first story is from Todd T.
Grace Immanuel United Church of Christ is a welcoming sort of place, so it’s no surprise the congregation extends its welcome worldwide with a 20-year history of co-sponsoring refugee families with Kentucky Refugee Ministries. It’s a gratifying, hands-on way to practice Christian principles — with the bonus of making new friends that will no doubt broaden your world view.
Welcoming refugees, especially with language and cultural barriers, can certainly be outside your comfort zone. But forging through those fears of the unknown is worth it when you make connections to people who have often fled war, violence and the difficulties of refugee camps. Helping refugees clear the hurdles and challenges of a new country — from things as difficult as government bureaucracy to something as simple as instructing them about mass transit — is always a rewarding experience.
Have You Helped Welcome a Refugee? Sign On Now to Protect Refugee Resettlement
Have you or your congregation or community group ever been involved in helping resettle or welcome refugees? If so please sign here.
The refugee resettlement program is in grave threat of being dismantled through a very low refugee admissions goal to be set before September 30th. Decision-makers urgently need to hear the moral voice of faith communities and stakeholders like you who have participated in the refugee program and helped resettle refugees.
There is also an Executive Order likely to come out soon that will allow local officials or governors to opt their state out of the refugee program. It will be important to show strong support at a local level of congregations and organizations that are invested in refugee resettlement.
If you or your congregation has helped welcome a refugee, please sign onto this letter now! We need your help to save the refugee resettlement program!
Please Sign On Here by Monday, September 23rd
Thank you for your support and solidarity with refugees in this critical moment.
"A refugee from Uganda has reunited with her four children this summer after a separation of more than five years — thanks to her dogged determination, constant advocacy and continued accompaniment of her church family.
Deborah Jane Baliraine, joined by allies from First Community Church (FCC) United Church of Christ and Community Refugee Immigration Services (CRIS), both in Columbus, Ohio, welcomed her son and three daughters to their new home in the United States in late June."
To read the full article written by Connie Larkman click here.
"United Church of Christ clergy and congregations took leadership, served as hosts, lit candles and planned follow-up actions during many of the hundreds of "Lights for Liberty" vigils held Friday evening, July 12. The events around the country protested the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers detained at the southern U.S. border, in what national vigil organizers refer to as concentration camps." For more on this article that was written by Hans Holznagel please click here.
Dear Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives:
The United Church of Christ through Refugee and Asylum Ministries seeks to accompany our refugee neighbors, both in the United States and around the world, as they seek safety and security. We write today asking for a robust commitment to resettling 95,000 refugees in the United States in 2020 and a commitment to resettling at least 30,000 refugees this year.
Last year when we wrote this letter we said the world was facing the worst refugee crisis in history. This year that is still true, the numbers continue to climb, and global instability has spread and grown. Over 68 million people are displaced, 25 million of whom are refugees. Half of those refugees are children. The targets for refugee resettlement have been abysmally low, at 45,000 last year and 30,000 this year; and even more unacceptable is that the resettlement goal wasn’t even met by half. This complete rejection of the responsibility to help resettle refugees is abhorrent and profoundly troubling.
We know every refugee dreams of being home, and that refugee resettlement is a last resort for only the most dire circumstances. Refugee resettlement happens when people are persecuted for their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, and cannot return home to rebuild their lives in their country of origin. Refugee resettlement is not, and should not be a partisan issue, and the U.S. resettlement program has been the happy recipient of support from both sides of the aisle. It should continue to receive that strong bipartisan support because refugees are good for our country. Our communities and congregations flourish with the spirit and contributions of refugees. Compassion is also good for our country. The practice of extending help where needed is good for our moral center.
Through UCC Refugee and Asylum Ministries, hundreds of UCC congregations have helped resettle refugees and advocated on their behalf. Our faith calls us to love our neighbor and welcome the sojourner. We as a church are committed to doing just that. We celebrate the refugees in our communities and urge Congress to safeguard and bolster the refugee resettlement program; ensuring the Administration is held accountable to resettling 30,000 refugees this year and makes a bold and compassionate commitment to resettle 95,000 refugees in 2020. In order to fully embrace this pledge we encourage support and passage of the GRACE Act, (S.1088 & H.R.2146), which would set a minimum refugee admissions goal of 95,000 each year thereafter and the NO BAN Act, (S.1123 & H.R.2214), which would repeal the Muslim bans, refugee bans, and asylum ban, and prevent the administration from setting such bans in the future.
With all this talk of numbers, it’s important to remember the people behind them. Hebrews 13:1-2 reminds us to “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Each refugee has a story of struggle and resilience, of heartache and joy. Being a part of that story is a privilege.
Refugee Council USA released a report on the drastic cuts to refugee resettlement harming refugees and it's impact on American communities. RCUSA is a coalition of 24 non-governmental organizations that are dedicated to welcoming, aiding and assisting refugees.
To read the full report please click here.