Last week, we learned that vulnerable children and families are being detained in inadequate facilities and threatened with deportation. If you’re like us, you believe that families belong together, and that this is a grave injustice that we must fight back against. As Christians, and as Americans.
On World Refugee Day we want to shine a light on the individuals, from multiple countries who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and future.
Today, June 20th, marks World Refugee Day. According to just released data by UNHCR, there are more than 70 million displaced persons around the world.
Since the presidential election in the United States on Tuesday, we’ve received many questions from church leaders and other concerned friends regarding the path ahead for World Relief’s work with refugees and immigrants. While this aspect of our work is only one part of our larger global mission to empower the local church to stand with the vulnerable—including our aid and development work in communities throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East—we believe that this is a unique moment for the Church.
Tuesday’s election concluded a presidential campaign season that was uniquely divisive. That division is being felt within the U.S. Church as well. Despite differing on political issues, however, what can and needs to unite followers of Jesus is our commitment to living out His commands and the teachings of Scripture. While we respect and collaborate with governmental authorities, our ultimate trust is in God, who “watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow” (Psalm 146:9 NIV). Throughout the Old and New Testaments, followers of God are repeatedly called to “do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor, [to not] exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow” (Jeremiah 22:3 CEB).
The Church is called to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13 NIV)—literally, to practice loving strangers—mindful that Jesus Himself was once a child refugee, forced to flee from a tyrannical genocide. Whenever we welcome one of “the least of these” in Jesus’ name, we welcome Him (Matthew 25:40).
That’s why—even as we anticipate the impending Presidential transition in the U.S.—World Relief’s mission remains to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable, including the displaced and the persecuted.
As has been the case for decades, today teams of World Relief staff and volunteers from local churches in cities, suburbs, and small towns throughout the United States will be gathering beds, sofas, and household items to furnish new apartments for arriving refugees. At airports across the country, our teams will welcome newcomers who are weary from their travel and nervous as they arrive in a country and culture they have never known. Our staff and volunteers will walk alongside these newly arrived refugees, helping them to rebuild their lives.
Many refugees and other immigrants feel uniquely vulnerable right now. We believe that this represents a unique moment for the Church. Today, local churches have the opportunity to demonstrate moral courage by standing with the vulnerable in new and unprecedented ways—offering a warm welcome, a reassuring smile, practical assistance, and consistent advocacy for more compassionate policy towards carefully vetted refugees and their families.
We deeply value our longstanding relationship with the U.S. State Department, and we look forward to working with the new administration to welcome and resettle refugees, just as we have with the past six presidential administrations. And regardless of the course the new administration sets, World Relief’s mission remains the same—to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable.
President Reagan once called the U.S. “a shining city on a hill” for those searching for freedom. On one hand, we ought to be proud of our country’s history as a beacon of refuge for those fleeing persecution, and we pray that the brightest moments of our national history of welcoming refugees and immigrants are still ahead of us.
But we must also remember that when Jesus first spoke of “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14), he was not speaking about the United States. Rather, Jesus was addressing His personal followers, those who would become the earliest Church.
In the face of the greatest global refugee crisis in recorded history, World Relief’s prayer is that the Church—the largest social network on the planet—will seize this unique moment, letting its light shine like a city upon a hill, so that millions of displaced people around the world will find great love and compassion—both of which are at the heart of God.
Please donate today to help us seize this unique moment to serve refugees, immigrants, and the vulnerable around the world.
So today, on World Refugee Day, we want to not only tell you a different story, but to introduce you to a person. Meet Samir, a young man from Syria who has experienced much pain and much suffering, but has also found much hope.
A refugee is someone who has fled one's home country and cannot return because well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Churches and small groups around the country are mobilizing into Good Neighbor Teams to serve newly arriving refugee families for a period of six to 12 months—supplying material needs like food, clothing, and transportation, and tangible services like school registration, community orientation, job preparation and English tutoring.
Everything began to change when the Syrian revolution started in March of 2011. Protests increased as the government and police counteracted and things became increasingly violent. From their home, Rami's family could hear the gunfire as it moved through the city and ultimately to their neighborhood.
EVERY AMERICAN CHURCH CONGREGATION SHOULD WELCOME A REFUGEE FAMILY “The American church is ready and willing to extend open arms to those fleeing war and terror in the Middle East. Whether it’s hosting refugees in our own country, or supporting churches serving them in other countries, the American church has chosen to act.” Stephan Bauman, World Relief
Simple acts of kindness can make all the difference in the world. World Relief staff and volunteers help refugees like this family settle in the US throughout the year – bringing hope and reassurance in times of uncertainty.
After years of violent warfare, a fragile peace shrouds the beauty of the Democratic Republic of Congo – but this peace is often shattered as conflicts continue to flare up. Over 2 million Congolese women, men and children have been forced to flee across their country, and more than 400,000 have sought refuge in countries like the United States. Both here and there, World Relief is committed to walking with the Congolese people as they rebuild their lives alongside local churches. When fighting broke out in Christine’s village in eastern DR Congo, her family had no choice but to flee into an overcrowded camp. Here, food shortages threatened Christine and her five children every day. And when they finally returned home, hunger came with them. Everything they’d owned was gone.
But Christine’s hope began to grow when she joined a World Relief farmers’ association. Here, she was trained in the latest agricultural techniques and studied God’s word with other farmers. And after the sale of her first harvest, Christine’s profits changed her whole family: for the first time, they were able to eat three meals a day. Her two daughters attended school. Christine purchased a new roof to cover their home and saved up seeds for next season. After years of chaos, stability slowly returned to their lives.
“For all of these things, we praise God for his blessings,” Christine said.
Phenias and Jacques’ journey began much like Christine’s – violence forced them across the border into a refugee camp in Rwanda. Here, they raised their eight children, but the tent they lived in was not home. When they were resettled into the US by World Relief, Phenias and Jacques looked forward to living in a place of stability and opportunity – but they’d also face great difficulty. Once again, they’d leave home and adjust to a brand new language, culture and lifestyle.
After several years of living in a refugee camp and 35 hours of flights, volunteers from churches near and far welcomed this Congolese family in their own language. When they reached their new apartment, Phenias and Jacques got down on their knees and sang a song of praise to God. He had fulfilled his promises to them, and at last, they were safe. They joined a community of fellow Christians and refugees who would walk with them through the challenging transitions ahead. Now, Phenias and Jacques await the day when they can warmly welcome other refugees into their new homes.
In the US, DR Congo and beyond, World Relief works alongside the local church to provide trauma healing to survivors of war, prevent conflict, reconcile relationships and restore livelihoods. The love and justice of God have no borders – and that’s why we’re standing with the most vulnerable both here and there. To learn more about how you can welcome refugees from countries like the DR Congo, get in touch with one of our US offices.
With more than 145 million Valentine’s Day cards sent in the U.S. each year, this holiday has sparked a season of gift giving and romantic sentiments for many. Though Valentine’s Day is celebrated by a few additional countries around the world, it’s usually a new holiday for refugees entering the United States for the first time. This Valentine’s Day is especially meaningful for one newly resettled refugee couple from Eritrea, Mulgeta and Ruta - it’s the first time they’ve seen one another in over a year.
Conflict in their home country forced Mulgeta and Ruta to flee with hopes of beginning a new life somewhere else. Separated and not able to communicate with one another, Mulgeta made his way through two countries and eventually got to Malta. After a long journey, Ruta found herself as a refugee living in Cairo.
When Mulgeta was given the green light to enter the United States, he was resettled without his wife. Here, he was greeted by World Relief staff and volunteers and quickly given a job in the area. “He is a true fighter,” said World Relief High Point’s Danica Kushner. With no sustainable transportation, Mulgeta rode his bike to and from his new job every day, even in harsh weather. Mulgeta worked vigorously, financially preparing and hoping for the day that he would be reunited with his wife.
And finally, that day came. A year after his own arrival to the US, Mulgeta was told that his wife was flying to join him that very same day. Overjoyed, Mulgeta bought flowers and greeted his wife at the gate along with his friends and a terminal full of applauding travelers.
Valentine’s Day is just one of the many new holidays that Mulgeta and Ruta will be able to share with one another now that they are reunited. They plan to stay in High Point - Ruta continuing her studies and Mulgeta continuing to work hard to provide for his family.
What better way to celebrate this day of love than sharing community and friendship with one another? To learn more about life-giving opportunities in your city, contact a World Relief office near you.
Jenny Yang is Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. She was recently in Jordan with a delegation from Refugee Council USA to assess the situation facing Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and urges that we do more to help these refugees in their critical time of need. Three young girls were huddled under thick blankets in their makeshift, cement-walled house in a compound in Mafraq, Jordan, near the border with Syria. It was cold and rainy and they hadn’t left their compound in days. The three sisters, aged 3, 6, and 7, had fled Syria a couple years ago with their mother who feared for their safety. The father’s whereabouts are unknown. Their resilient mother dreams of returning to her homeland with her daughters, but doesn’t know when or if that would be possible.
At a time when many of us are enjoying the snow because it affords us a day off work or school, for the thousands of refugees in Jordan, it means cold, wet, and windy conditions in flimsy homes made out of plastic and metal. As a huge snow storm recently blanketed the Middle East, strong winds blew away the tents of 100 refugees in Zaatari refugee camp leaving them with no shelter in the cold rain. A recent UNHCR report found that almost half of refugee households have no source of heat and at least a quarter have unreliable electricity.
Jordan is hosting over 600,000 registered Syrian refugees, which represents approximately 10% of its population. Many fled starting in 2012 when the Syrian crisis began, and have experienced tremendous suffering, including torture, physical ailments, and the death of loved ones. The response of the Jordanian government has been generous, as many of the Syrian refugees have enjoyed free health care and education for their children.
But the refugees face new challenges as the Jordanian government is being stretched thin and recently announced they are cutting health care to the refugees as well as enforcing stricter guidelines about who crosses the border. Two-thirds of Syrian refugees across Jordan live below the national poverty line, and one in six lives in extreme poverty. While the international community has responded with robust humanitarian assistance, the situation is reaching a straining point.
Many parents are marrying off their daughters as young as 12 or 13 years old to much older men, believing such a relationship will offer some form of protection. Children are pulled from schools because they can work to provide for the immediate needs of their families. “What is the point of education,” one parent told me, “when there will be no opportunities for our children to use their education in the future?”
The violence in Syria is not expected to end in the next several years which means the refugees are faced with the ongoing dilemma of not being able to return home as well as facing real protection challenges while living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and other host countries. The international community must do more to not just provide assistance but also burden share by resettling a larger number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
While the desire for many Syrians is to eventually return home, the reality is that they will not be able to in the near future, if ever. Their homes were destroyed and they face little hope of integrating in their host countries. Resettlement can be an extension of solidarity to host countries that are shouldering so much while offering hope to refugees so they can pursue the dignity of work and education for their families without the daily uncertainties and fears of having no home to live in or even being returned to Syria.
The United States has only resettled 148 Syrian refugees last year, and 32 the year before. In all, the United States resettles less than half of 1% of the world’s refugees. For countries like Lebanon, where refugees make up a quarter of their entire population, and Jordan, where the refugees make up a tenth of the population, the United States’ strong tradition of welcoming the persecuted from around the world must be expanded to receive the victims of this recent conflict, the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Resettlement won’t solve the region’s problems, but acting sooner rather than later will alleviate the burden on Jordan and other host countries, and it will ensure a better chance for long-term stability for the refugees caught in the middle.
To learn more about how you can join us in responding to this crisis now, visit https://worldrelief.org/iraq-syria.
Any refugee entering the United States faces significant obstacles. But for Nar and Dhan Maya Ghorsai, a Bhutanese couple resettled in Aurora, silence proved to be the greatest: deaf for most of their lives, Nar and Dhan were unable to learn English, form deep relationships or pursue success in their new community. However, on June 15, 2012, their silence was broken with the gift of hearing aids. Nar and Dhan were able to speak, listen and interact with a world that had been “dull” for years prior, the couple says.
World Relief Medical Case Specialist Esther Myahla explains that deafness is a common phenomenon among the Bhutanese community. Many enter the United States with limited hearing ability, but few doctors have been able to distinguish the root cause. Of Nar, Myahla explains, “He woke up one day as a child and could no longer hear.” For years, the couple was without answers and opportunities, and like many Bhutanese, simply accepted their hearing loss and the resulting limitations.
This all changed when the family was introduced to World Relief. Through the Intensive Medical Case Management program the Ghorsai family was connected with Esther, who acted as their spokesperson, advocate and companion. The Ghorsais were given the opportunity to visit a hearing specialist who outfitted them with custom hearing aids. Since then, the family has expressed how “very happy” and excited they are to be able to hear clearly all of the sounds that they had lost.
Without the ability to hear or speak, the Ghorsais often found themselves sitting idly at home without much drive or hope. Now, they are eager to build relationships, visiting neighbors and relatives regularly. Both Nar and Dhan anticipate returning to World Relief’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes so they can finally learn the English language, a task previously impossible as they both struggled to read lips. Nar explains, “The ear computers have given me a new life. It is like I am born again.”
Their son, Dal Ghorsai, beams with joy when describing the family’s newfound freedom. Dal says with a smile on his face: “I feel so glad that I could not express it. Since they were children, they were deaf and handicapped. But, now they can do everything. Now, they can have normal lives. I want to give thanks to World Relief and specifically to Esther because she suffered a lot for them.”
When their newfound ability to hear and speak, the Ghorsais have no doubt that they will more easily be able to communicate with the outside world, and experience an easier assimilation into American culture. Their past was marked by limited comprehension, relationships, and potential for success; the future however, is filled with hopeful ambition.
When refugees enter the United States, they are still a long way from their “finaldestination.” Arrival marks the beginning of physical, social, financial, relational and spiritual challenges that threaten this vulnerable population’s ability to be self-sufficient in an unfamiliar culture. World Relief in Fort Worth is empowering the local Church to meet the holistic needs of this group by resettling and meeting the holistic needs of several hundred refugees a year.
There are currently 15 to 16 million refugees in the world. Less than half of one percent of these refugees is offered stable resettlement in a developed nation, but the United States resettles the largest portion of these refugees. Most are given legal residency status and permission to work upon their arrival. They come seeking security, hope and community, but are less likely to experience social connection, more likely to have physical and mental conditions and are entering a country with few economic opportunities. Too often, refugees entering the United States are resettled into spiritual and physical poverty.
World Relief in Fort Worth is seeking to change that. From the moment refugees arrive at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, they are met with the relational, physical and spiritual love of Jesus Christ. The World Relief staff provides refugees with housing, medical services, cash assistance, ESL, case management, employment assistance and volunteer involvement. Additionally, by partnering with local churches and volunteers, World Relief Fort Worth connects refugees to the greater body of Christ. Often traveling from war-torn, oppressive communities, a refugee’s need for employment, housing and food cannot be separated from his or her need for peace, community and security.
Jason, whose name has been changed for this story, is one such refugee. He grew up in Iran where he and his family practiced Islam faithfully. When he entered university and studied Islamic law in his late teens, Jason found himself drifting from particular aspects of the religion that disturbed him; meanwhile, his interest in Christianity grew. Jason worked in Iran as a human rights attorney and professor before leaving his country and spending two years as a refugee in Turkey. Because he had no family or relations at this point, the UNHCR decided to resettle him in the United States and in August 2012, World Relief Fort Worth welcomed Jason at the airport.
World Relief found him housing in an apartment and employment with AT&T upon his arrival. He feared his Iranian heritage would create tension with Americans, but he adjusted through the friendship of a World Relief volunteer who Jason now says is “like my brother.” Later, World Relief Fort Worth offered Jason a job as a Case Manager. He says his work with refugees at World Relief is much like what he did in Iran. His experience navigating through their challenges has provided him a special understanding of refugee clients. A.C. Musopole writes, “It is a transformed person who transforms his or her environment,” a compelling truth that is evident in Jason’s life.
The same volunteer whom Jason describes as “family” invited the recent refugee to attend Gateway Church at Southlake. There, Jason made the decision to follow Jesus Christ and asked his friend to help him become baptized. During this interview, Jason’s joy was evident as he talked about the peace he has found in Christianity and how he knows that Jesus Christ is his “final destination.”