christian response to the refugee crisis

A Unique Moment for the Church

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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.

Webinar on The Church and the Refugee | Refugee Crisis

Learn from Gabe Lyons (Q Ideas) as he speaks with Rich Stearns (World Vision U.S., CEO), and Stephan Bauman (World Relief, CEO) about how the church must play a key role in engaging in the current Middle East refugee crisis. This webinar explores core issues behind the headlines surrounding the U.S. refugee program and potential security concerns, and provides perspectives on and presents a clear call to the Church to raise its voice as one this Christmas.

 

The hallmark of our country is to welcome the persecuted

Jenny Yang, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief, joined Suzanne Meridien of Syrian American Council on Hashtag VOA (Voice of America) earlier today to bring clarity on how the Paris Attacks have created an uncertain future for Syrian Refugees in the United States and what we, as Americans and Christians, can do to welcome refugees."One of the hallmarks of our country is actually to welcome the persecuted." - Jenny Yang

A Christian Conversation about Refugees | Refugee Crisis

Like a tsunami, waves of terror from the Paris attacks are crashing upon American shores. Valid questions pour in about the U.S. refugee resettlement screening process. 

Resettling Syrian and Iraqi Refugees - A Call To Do More

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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.