welcome refugees

When a Story Becomes a Person

When a Story Becomes a Person

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.

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.

A Warm Welcome for Refugees This Christmas | We Welcome Refugees

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Christmas, it’s one of the most celebrated times of year in the US. With millions of people traveling to visit family, trees on display, and gift exchanges with loved ones, churches across the country will overflow with visitors as they remember the glorious and scandalous birth of Jesus Christ. But many of our neighbors have significant needs this Christmas season, making the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes, a bit daunting. Through partnering with churches and volunteers, World Relief helped 7,948 refugees resettle in the US this year. Having fled their country from war, persecution, or natural disaster, World Relief comes alongside these new neighbors to make sure the first few months of transitioning to this new culture are as seamless as possible. In light of this and the truth of Jesus Christ’s gospel message, Christians around the country have responded to the call to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35).

In Fort Worth, Texas, more than 25 volunteers recently hosted a Coats & Cocoa event that provided winter items to over 350 refugees. After distributing the coats, volunteers got to visit the refugee families to share hot cocoa and sing Christmas carols – sharing some of the cheerful American traditions with their new neighbors who might have never experienced these before. One refugee kept saying, “Praise God! Praise God!” when coats were given to her family.

With an overabundance of winter gear donations for the event, Fort Worth will be able to provide for the needs of refugees that will be resettled in the coming months as well. This is another great example of the local church doing what Jesus did – sharing God’s love through tangible provision, relationship and compassion.

Join us as we continue to welcome families from all over the world to celebrate this cherished and treasured season.

For more information on how you can get involved in welcoming refugees, please contact your local World Relief office. Visit http://worldrelief.org/us-offices.