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.
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.
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
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.
Meet, Johnny, one of thousands of our volunteers across the globe choosing courage and generosity by welcoming new families to the U.S. Hear Johnny’s story and why he is committed to serving refugee families. “It is incumbent on Christians to love God and love others.” - Johnny
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.
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.
Sameer Qadoora has been a refugee since birth. As a child, his family fled violent conflict in present-day Israel and became citizens of Iraq. It was in Baghdad that he eventually met his wife, Hanan. In 2006, Sameer and Hanan were forced to flee when militants pursued Sameer for unknown reasons. With two children already, Hanan was eight months pregnant. The Qadoora family sought refuge in Jordan but were denied access by guards. The family hid in a mosque near the border until the Red Cross intervened and allowed Hanan, whose due date was fast approaching, to enter Jordan. Hanan gave birth to a healthy baby boy but remained separated from her family for several months. Their only option was to be transferred to a refugee camp just inside the Iraq-Syria border. The family spent six years in this dangerous, ill-equipped cluster of tents located in the middle of a harsh desert. Their life in the camp was one marked by continuous waiting.
In August 2012, the waiting was over. The Qadooras packed up what little they had and boarded a UN charter bus that would take them to the airport and then the United States. World Relief had the privilege of resettling the Qadoora family in Kent, Washington; however, a local Church played a vital role in the process. Church volunteers welcome refugees the minute they arrive at the airport and provide volunteer services and resources necessary for refugees to establish self-sufficiency in their new home. They share the Gospel with vulnerable refugees through word and deed.
Now, the boys are in school. Hanan meets weekly with a volunteer, Anna, who helps her practice English. Sameer works part time at a local printing press and is currently working with the World Relief employment team to find a full-time job. When asked what they think of their new home, Hanan said, “When I came here, it changed my life. I’m so happy here, so happy to see your faces.”
Story taken from World Relief Seattle
With the arrival of Thanksgiving, World Relief is excited to celebrate in thankfulness the thousands of volunteers and hundreds of churches volunteering time and resources to assist with refugee resettlement in the United States. Over the past 35 years, World Relief’s U.S. offices have resettled over 250,000 refugees from more than 80 nations. For every office, volunteers play an invaluable role in serving newly arrived refugees by providing mentorship, friendship and general assistance with transportation and navigating life in their new communities.
The following testimonials are taken from volunteers at World Relief’s Sacramento office, which has been resettling refugees since 1982. While powerful, these are just a few of many stories about the mutual transformation occurring in Refugee Resettlement across the country.
Apartment Setup Volunteer - What can I say about the rewarding experience of working with World Relief and the refugee program? It started with nothing more than volunteering to deliver a meal to whomever the church said needed one. It has since grown into collecting and sorting donated household items and buying, as wisely as possible, whatever else is needed, along with setting up apartments and bringing the incoming families to these apartments. Although the above actions are exciting and enjoyable for me, the area of volunteering I look forward to the most is ongoing relationships with the new families. This Includes taking them to appointments, grocery shopping and doing anything I can to make them feel welcomed and loved in their new home. I have made several mistakes in all of these opportunities and yet the graciousness and thankfulness of the families keeps me motivated to continue serving them. What an easy way for us to share God's love and follow His command to go and make disciples. We don't have to go to the 'outermost regions' as some are called to do. Instead God has brought them to us. Thank you World Relief for your ministry.
“Road Runner” (Driver) Volunteer - With World Relief, I have been pleased to have the opportunity to assist refugees with some of their initial needs upon their arrival in Sacramento. The experience with World Relief has impressed upon me the vulnerability of these newcomers and the importance to them of volunteers and others that help them. From the comments of several of the refugees I've met, transportation is one of the challenges they face in Sacramento, as they don't initially have their own cars and find public transportation, including school buses, to be limited.”
ESL Instructor - When a beginning ESL student first walks into my classroom, they can usually tell me their name, but not spell it. Beyond that, their English may consist of some common nouns and verbs strung together with no connector words to give grammatical sense to the sentence. As the teacher, that first day of Beginning ESL is a challenge. I don't know anything about my students. They don't know anything about me. The only way to get there, save for Google Translate, is by learning English. One of the most exciting moments in my classroom was a few weeks into our semester when I looked at the board and saw, not words or pictures, but twenty sentences that the students wrote themselves with their peers. As they wrote, they debated over the grammar and spelling and content of what they wanted to say and broke into fits of laughter when someone made a funny comment or mistake. I was overwhelmed when I realized that in only a few short weeks, we had moved from only communicating in smiles and hand gestures and being isolated from one another to talking to each other about our families, hobbies, clothes, likes and dislikes, and home countries. The students had built relationships with people from other cultures who didn’t speak their languages and had taught me about their own cultures and lives. Seeing this transformation helped to underscore the reason I teach them English. It is not about correct grammar or spelling, though those are important. It is about building relationships.
World Relief is thankful and proud to work alongside the empowered Body of Christ and thousands of volunteers across the United States as we join hands to serve vulnerable, newly-arrived refugees!
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3