We Need Renewed Attention to AIDS

We Need Renewed Attention to AIDS

Last week, to mark the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the vice president announced a historic investment of $100 million of new resources to expand its engagement with faith-based organizations and communities of faith that are serving on the front lines of our fight against HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

“I will not forget you, God has placed you in my heart.”

Some time ago I spent a week in a Middle Eastern country visiting with Syrian refugees. Day after day on that trip, I sat on concrete floors in crumbling urban apartments with Syrian women and their children. Each time I looked into the women's faces, their empty eyes told the silent stories of losses and grief.

In Syria, these women had been comfortable, middle class women, just living their day-to-day lives. Then suddenly, one day, they were running for their lives. They had watched their friends and family members die. They had seen their communities exploding, literally. So they did the only thing they could. They grabbed their kids and crossed country borders in the middle of the night, sometimes with bullets chasing them, in search of some kind of future. In search of some kind of hope.

Fortunately, many of those women ended up safely in the neighborhood where I was visiting, where a church I knew very well was providing food and basic necessities for these refugee families. On the last day of my visit, the pastor asked if I would speak to 200 of these women. He explained how they came to the church once a week to get bags of food and to let their children play in a safe place. While the children played, the mothers attended meetings where they’d learn how to deal with grief, how to help with their children’s trauma, and how to adapt to a new culture.

With the help of a Palestinian Christian friend who translated my words into Arabic, this is what I said to the women:

“I wish I didn’t have to stand up here in front of you. I would much rather sit beside you on a cushion on the floor and have a cup of tea with you. I would love to snuggle your baby in my arms. And I would love to hear your story. I know you each have a sad story, and if I heard it, I know I would weep. I know you are good and loving women. And I’m sorry you have lost so much. I am sorry you had to flee to a country, a city, and a house that’s not your own.

I can imagine in your own country, you were strong women who graciously served others.

I can imagine you making delicious food and sharing it with your family and friends.

I can imagine you caring for your mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, sisters and brothers and friends, just like I do.”

That’s what women do. We are compassionate. We give. We serve, protect, and work hard to make the world better for the people we love.
Wherever I go in the world, I discover we women are a lot a like. We may have different clothes, hair, religion, culture or skin color, but in our hearts we are the same. That’s why we can look into each other's eyes and feel connected. We can talk without using words. We can smile, we can hug, we can laugh. And sometimes we can feel each other’s pain. While I was with those women, I prayed that God would help me feel their pain. And oh how I wished I could remove it, or help them carry it.

“Your Faith Has Healed You”

I told the women gathered before me that while I prayed for them the night before, I was reminded of the story in the Gospel about the woman who had been sick for many years. No one could heal her body or comfort her mind. People had given up on her and were ignoring her. But she believed Jesus could heal her if she could just touch his robe. So she pushed silently through the crowd that followed Jesus. She was afraid he would turn her away if he saw her, so she stayed quietly in the shadows. Finally, she reached out and touched his robe.

Immediately he stopped, “Who touched me?” He asked.

“Power has flowed out of me and I want to know who touched me.”

She was afraid, certain he was angry and would punish her, but she felt compelled to answer, “It was me. I am the one who touched you!”

The crowd hushed, anxious to see what this great man would do.

Jesus simply looked into her eyes and said, “Daughter your faith is great. Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

I told the women that when I read that story I wondered why Jesus stopped and made that frightened women speak up, and I prayed for God to help me understand.

This is why I think Jesus stopped: I believe Jesus wanted that woman to know he saw her.

She wasn’t just an anonymous person in a huge crowd. She was an individual woman and he saw her.

Jesus knew she was suffering and it broke his heart. He called her daughter so she would understand how much he loved her. He said she had great faith in her God and he honored her for it. And he healed the wounds of her body and soul.

As a Christian, I believe Jesus shows us what God is like. He shows us that God sees each of us as individuals. He calls us sons and daughters because he loves us. He honors our faith because he knows it can make us strong. He cares when we suffer. He wants to bring healing, comfort, and peace into our lives. Some verses in Scripture even tell us that Jesus weeps, which means that God weeps, too. He weeps for all of His suffering children.

“I Will Not Forget You”

Then I looked at the women seated before me and said this,

“I wish I could end the war that’s ravaging your country. I wish I could gather all the money in the world to make your lives easier. I wish I could bring back all that you have lost. I can’t do any of that, but I can do this: I can go home and tell others what I’ve seen. I can tell people how you are suffering and how amazing Christians are lovingly walking with you. Both you and your Christian friends need the prayers and support of Americans. And I will tell my friends that.

"I will also tell my friends how beautiful, strong, and loving you are. I will tell them you are women of deep faith, women who adore your children and grandchildren, just the same way I adore mine. Women who sacrifice willingly for those that they love.

"I will tell them that when I look into your eyes, I see that we are all a part of the same human family, all created and loved by God. I will not forget you. I will pray for you. I will tell your stories. I will weep when I hear anew of your suffering, and I will rejoice over any goodness that comes your way.

"Truly I will not forget you. God has placed you in my heart.”

It was over three years ago that I met those women.  Since then I have told their stories many times. They and their stories continue to break my heart, but they also compel me to action.

One final story has impacted me greatly...

After their home was destroyed by rockets, Hana and her children fled Syria to relative safety in a neighboring country. There they found leaders like Saeed and Clara providing help and hope for refugee children. I hope that as you watch, their story inspires you as much as it inspired me.


More than 80% of the beneficiaries of our programs are women and children. World Relief works through local churches to protect, celebrate, and raise the value of women by taking a holistic approach—addressing immediate needs and harmful belief systems simultaneously. Learn how you can join us and create a better world for women.


Since 1975, when Lynne & Bill Hybels started Willow Creek Community Church, Lynne has been an active volunteer in the compassion ministries of the church. She has served with ministry partners in Chicago, Latin America, Africa, and more recently in the Middle East. Increasingly, Lynne is partnering with women in conflict zones who are committed to reconciliation, peacemaking, caring for refugees, and creating a better future for their children. Lynne is actively engaged with a grassroots organization, One Million Thumbprints, which raises awareness and funds for women suffering from the violence of war in Syria and Iraq, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In recent years she has traveled repeatedly to the Middle East to meet with Syrian refugees, Iraqis displaced by ISIS, and Israeli and Palestinian women working for security, dignity, and peace for all the people living in the Holy Land. Lynne and Bill have two grown children, Shauna and Todd, one son-in-law, Aaron Niequist, and two grandsons, Henry and Mac, who run the family. 

VIDEO: The Hope House

We are called to care for our neighbor, both American and foreign-born.

“To care for both/and. Not either/or. But both/and.”

That’s the message Pastor Bill Bigger preached to his church, Hope Valley Baptist in Durham, NC, as the congregation underwent a 5-month discussion and discernment period on whether to build a temporary shelter for incoming refugees on the church’s property.

“I preached on the biblical call to welcome the stranger, and to be a neighbor to people regardless of their background…” Bigger recalls. And despite initial congregational concerns, 84% of the church voted in favor of building Hope House last year.

“It’s my faith in God that shapes my commitment to refugees,” Bigger explains.

Watch Hope Valley’s story in this video recently produced by UNHCR:

Thank God for Women — A Conversation with Courtney O'Connell

Courtney O'Connell

Thank God for Women is a blog series rooted in gratitude for the strength, courage, and incredible capacity women demonstrate.


After living and working in South Africa and Zambia, Courtney O’Connell came to World Relief in 2011. With a master’s degree in International Development from Eastern University, Courtney took on the role of Savings for Life (SFL) Senior Program Advisor, supporting program staff in the nine countries where World Relief implements SFL. She loves living in Rwanda, close to where Savings for Life is being implemented, and when she's not working, Courtney can be found running and biking throughout Rwanda's beautiful countryside. Recently, Cassidy Stratton, World Relief’s Marketing Coordinator, had an opportunity to catch up with Courtney to hear how she’s seen World Relief’s Savings for Life program empower women around the world:

Cassidy Stratton: You noted that you had already lived in Africa for 3 years. How did you specifically get connected to World Relief?

Courtney O’Connell: When I was job searching, I knew I wanted to do economic development in Africa with a Christian organization, and so I just went to some of the big names that I could immediately think of. World Relief actually had my current position posted, so without even thinking, or even proofreading, I submitted my resume. And, by the grace of God, I got it.

In my previous work overseas, I had seen organizations that claimed to be Christian on the website, and when I went to the field to see their programs, there was actually nothing Christian about them. And I was not sure if World Relief was like that since I had not seen them overseas. So I reached out to a professor of mine who was writing a book for which Stephen Bauman, the president of World Relief at that time, was submitting a chapter. She forwarded me Stephen’s chapter, which was all about working with the church and the heart and soul of what World Relief is about. As I read it, I said “Man, that sounds really good! And if they are who they say they are then I would totally be in..”

As I left the U.S., I thought, “I’m not selling my car until they prove that they are who they say they are.” Not that my car was nice; it was my Grandma’s hand-me-down Buick. Well, I moved to Rwanda in July of 2011. And I immediately, I fell in love with the way we do our work. Everything Stephen wrote about was true. There truly is a partnership with the local church, and the desire is to see the local church shine, not the organization. And to really infuse and integrate biblical beliefs into programs. To me, that was so unique. I was, and still am, thrilled to be a part of an organization that cares for the vulnerable in the way we do.



CS: Can you tell me more about your current position?

CO: I am the Savings for Life Senior Program Advisor—a program that forms community-based savings groups, where people pool their own money together in order to give loans to each other, charging interest. And after a set period of time—approximately 9 - 12 months—everyone takes back the savings they had put in, plus the portion of interest that they earned. So then it’s a very useful amount of money that a family can use to pay for school fees, invest in their farm, start a business, repair their house and the like. The best thing is that it is all their own money. It’s not like a loan from a bank. And when they go home at the end of this cycle for savings, they have in their hands probably the most amount of money that they’ve ever had at one time. It’s such an empowering program, and it’s great to be a part of it.

World Relief is running this program in 10 countries, and my role is to work alongside the program managers and field staff that are actually running the program. My role is to support them, help set strategies, prepare proposals, and make sure they have all of the tools to run a successful program. It’s cool for me because I get to be pretty close to the action, and I get to walk alongside the staff, the real heroes who are doing the work. Sometimes I feel like a cheerleader, cheering the programs along and helping teams to see what’s possible.



CS: What role have you seen women play in the Savings for Life Program?

CO: In most of the context where we’re working, the women are the glue of the society. They are the strong one’s in the family who make things happen. Unfortunately in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, the traditional gender roles are that the men are the ones who make all of the important household financial decisions and are the controllers of the money. The women are the ones who are tasked to provide for the family on a daily basis, yet they don’t have a lot of authority or even their own money to make things happen.

We hear a lot of testimonies from women saying that it’s embarrassing because they have to go and—they use the word “beg”—their husband in order to get money to buy salt, buy oil, etc. in order to prepare food. If she can’t prepare food then she is not doing her gender role. But in order to do her role within the family, she actually has to ask her husband for help. So it’s this huge power dynamic struggle.

The Savings for Life program worldwide is 80% women. And we see that women are the ones that benefit from this. They say now they do not have to beg their husbands because they can provide for themselves. They have this glow about them—this empowerment, this hope—because they feel like they are now doing the role that they are designed to do. Not only that, but they are also starting new businesses and paying school fees for their children, all things that had only been a dream before.



CS: Can you recall a specific success story of a Savings for Life group?

CO: I remember visiting a savings group at the beginning of their savings cycle, and they said to me, “We’re just poor people and can’t save, so can you give us money?” And then I actually went to visit that same group 9 months later when they were having the day of distribution. They literally had a table mounted with money. You could just see the joy, the hope, the empowerment, the confidence beaming out of them. And they were able to say, “This is our money, and no one helped us do this.” To me, this is what we’re here for. That’s the success. When people say that we can set our own goals and no one else has to do it for us.


CS: Is there a specific woman that has impacted your work?

CO: Another story I want to tell you about is about a woman named Adele. She lives in Burundi, one of the poorest countries where we work. It’s a beautiful country and has a lot of resources, but it also has a lot of poverty and corruption. Adele lives way out in the middle of a village, and Savings for Life comes that way, and she decides that she is going to join. During her first cycle of savings, she was able to buy a goat. This was the very first goat that her family owned. A goat out in the village is first a huge status and second a long-term savings. She was so happy to buy this goat. And by the second cycle of the savings program, she was able to buy a cow. Her family was able to use this cow to plow their fields. The savings group was impacting multiple areas of her life.

A few years after she joined the savings group, the community staff member approached her and asked if she could be a volunteer for Savings for Life, and she accepted. She got trained on how to be a volunteer village agent, and then she went out and started other training groups. Now she’s working in her own community and neighboring communities, helping to teach other people about this program that has been so impacting for her.



CS: How have you seen the savings groups also serve as support groups?

CO: The social aspect of the groups really help. There was a woman in a savings group that became a widow. She ended up moving back to her family, but she had a lot of relational problems and it wasn’t healthy for her stay in the household that she grew up in. And so her savings group actually built her a house. It was their own initiative. World Relief was not part of it at all. It was that this group of women cared for each other so much that they saw their sister in need and did something about it.

To me that is just really powerful how the social aspect of the savings group helps the women walk alongside each other to achieve their goals financially. And to just have social capital and strength. It helps relationships go way deeper.



CS: Have there been any women in your life that have influenced your work and the way you engage with women around the world?

CO: The small group that I’m a part of. There are women here in Rwanda that we meet on a weekly basis to walk through life together. There are challenges of living abroad, and being away from your home culture, and sometimes there are just frustration of life, and to be with other people who you know want the best for you and care about you and ask how they can help you. I have been impacted by that and have found a lot of solidarity and strength from these women.

I liken that to the solidarity and strength other women can get from their Savings for Life group.
  


CS: Why do you Thank God for Women?

CO: I thank God for women because I see the strength that they provide for their families and the hope that they provide for their children. Women are the ones in the family that are able to change course. Their family might have been living in poverty for generations and generations, but if a woman has hope, and has the confidence and the empowerment, then she can change that course for the generations to come.

And I think the real strength in rural communities, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are the women who are holding everything together, making changes for their families and their kids. I think women are the changemakers in our world.

 

Give today to create a better world for women. 

Thank God for Women — A Conversation with Rhona Murungi

RhonaMurungi.png

Thank God for Women is a blog series rooted in gratitude for the strength, courage, and incredible capacity women demonstrate.

 

Rhona Murungi was born and raised in rural western Ugandan by a single mother—who, Rhona says, was her biggest cheerleader while she pursued an education. After finishing graduate school at Vanderbilt, Rhona was looking to begin her career in economic and country development. With a passion to address the needs in her home country, she was connected to World Relief, where she now serves as Program Officer for the organization’s Developing Countries Unit. Recently, Cassidy Stratton, World Relief’s Marketing Coordinator, spoke with Rhona about her story and her passion for working with women around the world:

Cassidy Stratton: From Uganda to Taylor University, and then to Vanderbilt. How did you get connected to World Relief?

Rhona Murungi: I had just finished graduate school at Vanderbilt, and I was looking for a job! And I knew that I wanted to do development work. I knew that I wanted to do work that was in some form or fashion directly connected to Africa, because that’s where I’m from. That’s what I know. That’s what I’m passionate about.

I got this email from World Relief, looked it up and got really excited about the Program Officer role and applied. The rest is history.

 

CS: Could you tell us more about your work within World Relief?

RM: I was a Program Officer, stationed in the U.S., working for the East African region for close to 3 years. And then I was itching to get back to [Africa]. I had been away from home for 9 plus years. I really wanted to go back home. I wanted to grow and be challenged, and get the opportunity to do this work in the African context. So, when the [Directors of Programs] role became open again, I jumped at the chance to fulfill it and go to the region, and the Rwanda office welcomed me for 2 years.

I’m doing a PhD program at the moment, so I decided to come back to [World Relief’s Baltimore] office so that I could better balance my school work and the service opportunities within World Relief—sort of similar to the Program Officer role, but in the Developing Countries Unit.

It’s really exciting to plug back in. I’m grateful that the role that I’m in at the moment still allows me to have a significant opportunity to support programs in the region. I [now] oversee Haiti, Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya.

 

CS: What work have you done with women throughout your time with World Relief or even before?

RM: I could talk about that for ages! Our work, actually, is very heavily focused on—and targets—women. Women and children, in many ways, make up a significant portion of beneficiaries.

 

CS: Why is it important for our work to intentionally address the needs of women?

RM: If your programs are intentionally involving and welcoming the participation of women (not at the exclusion of men by the way) it’s most likely to not just succeed, but actually benefit beyond the individual woman to the household and entire community. It’s proven, but I can also really attest to that from my own personal upbringing. Women glue the home together.

 

CS: Could you provide some examples?

RM: For example, one of my favorite programs in World Relief—and to be honest, I have a little personal bias to it—is our Savings For Life work. Seventy-two percent of our beneficiaries are women in this program. Which, in a way, makes sense because women are—at least in the communities in Africa that I’m from and have been exposed to— the backbone of households. And when you target women, when you empower women, when you engage women, and bring them in and allow for their participation, it actually benefits the entire household—not just one individual.

 

CS: Has there been a particular experience within the Savings For Life group you can recall?

RM: A few months ago, I was doing a field visit in one of our Church Empowerment Zones in Rwanda, and visited a savings group. I shared with these women that this [moment] took me back to when I was little. My mom was part of a savings group growing up—saving a little at a time, investing in setting up a small business, putting food on the table for my siblings and I, and sending us to school. I am, in many ways, a product of this program.

And I tell the women, “Look, I’m a product of what you are doing. And the Lord remain, 15 or 20 years from now, your kids, that are running around your feet, are going to be me—approaching the very work that you’re diligently doing in order for you to feed them, send them through school, and support your family.”

This particular program brings me to tears because it is a full-circle moment—that I have the privilege and honor to approach work that actually transformed my family and my life.

 

CS: You’re very passionate about the work you’ve done with women, children, and men. Has there been a specific time when your life has been transformed because of a woman’s impact?

RM: There is not two ways about it for me; by far the most impactful woman in my life has been my mother. She is just an incredible example. To be honest, we could sit here for a couple of hours and I would be able to exhaust the stories about my mother and the ways in which she has shepherded our family, and brought us so far and as single mother, too.

 

CS: You said yourself that “evidence shows that women tend to think beyond ourselves, beyond our own interests—to the interests of others.” That’s powerful. Why do you thank God for women?

RM: I thank God for the resilience of women and the way God has and continues to use women to be the backbone and the lifeblood of many households, communities, and nations—in ways that go both recognized and unrecognized.

You too can make a difference in the lives of women around the world.

UPDATED: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Support for Refugees

Over the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of responses to the resources we have provided on how to stand in solidarity with refugees. During this critical time, your efforts mean the world. Here’s an updated list of ways you can show support for refugees right now:

support refugees


1. Advocate
Sign this petition expressing your support for refugees. Or call your elected officials on behalf of refugees at 1.866.940.2439.

2. Donate
Make a one-time donation or commit to $15/month to Unlock Hope.

3. Engage
Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and join the conversation.



How to Advocate on Behalf of Refugees

Your voice is needed now more than ever.

On Friday, January 27, the new presidential administration issued an executive order that suspends the Refugee Resettlement Program for 120 days, cuts the United States' current commitment to refugee arrivals by over half, and bans Syrian refugee arrivals for an indefinite period of time (with other nationalities potentially on the line).

We need an outpouring of signatures, calls, and emails to your elected officials to say that this is not OK.

Would you do the following 3 things?

1. Sign a petition.
Sign and share this petition expressing solidarity with refugees.

2. Contact elected officials.
Email your elected officials here and call your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives by dialing 1-866-940-2439. Once connected, you can share:

  • Your name, city, and state

  • Your support for the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program

  • One or two reasons why you personally believe in welcoming refugees

Another great way to make your voice heard is by commenting on White House Facebook posts or submitting a message at whitehouse.gov/contact.

3. Use social media
Use the links below to tweet the following message to President Trump, The White House, and your senators and representatives.

My community stands with ALL refugees! The U.S. should continue to resettle #refugees! #wewelcomerefugees

Tweet @realDonaldTrump
Tweet @WhiteHouse
Tweet your senators
Tweet your representatives


Below, please watch a short video of Jenny Yang, World Relief VP of Advocacy and Policy, recorded shortly before last week's executive order.


Thank you for taking a stand at this critical time. Your voice is going to make a difference!


A Letter to President Trump on Executive Order on Refugees

Dear President Trump and Vice President Pence,

As evangelical Christians, we are guided by the Bible to be particularly concerned for the plight of refugees, individuals who have been forced to flee their countries because of the threat of persecution. Evangelical churches and ministries have long played a key role in welcoming, resettling, and assisting in the integration of refugees from various parts of the world. As such, we are troubled by the recent executive order temporarily halting refugee resettlement and dramatically reducing the number of refugees who could be considered for resettlement to the U.S.

The Bible teaches us that each person — including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier — is made in the Image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us. While the U.S. has in recent years received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.

Our faith also compels us to be concerned with the well-being of families. Most of the refugees admitted to the U.S. in recent years are family reunification cases, coming to join a relative already in the country. A temporary moratorium will unnecessarily delay families whose cases already have been screened and approved from being reunited.

We fully affirm the important role of the U.S. government in vetting and screening those considered for resettlement to our country; indeed, it is a God-ordained responsibility of government. However, the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s screening process is already extremely thorough — more intensive, in fact, than the vetting that is required of any other category of visitor or immigrant to our nation — and it has a remarkably strong record. While we are always open to improvements to our government’s screening process, we believe that our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure.

We would ask that you reconsider these decisions, allowing for resettlement of refugees to resume immediately so that our churches and ministries can continue to live out our faith in this way.

We are praying for you and for all of those in positions of civil authority, that God would continue to grant you wisdom and guidance.

Respectfully,

Chad Hayward
CEO
Accord Network

Shirley V. Hoogstra
President
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Hyepin Im
President & CEO
Korean Churches for Community Development

Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez
President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Ambassador
The Wesleyan Church

Tim Breene
CEO
World Relief

Richard Stearns
President
World Vision U.S.
 

Download PDF of this letter. 


Join us in urging Congress and local officials to end the moratorium and resume the resettlement of refugees as soon as possible. Sign the refugee petition now.

 

 

Eugene Cho: Video Update from the Middle East

Pastor, author and friend of World Relief Eugene Cho is currently in the Middle East, along with teams from One Day's Wages and World Relief. The teams are visiting local leaders who are actively involved in welcoming Syrian refugees, helping the displaced resettle and begin to build new lives.

 Watch Eugene Cho's update from the Middle East, recorded a few days ago.

World Relief is honored and grateful that One Day's Wages is partnering with us to provide education for Syrian refugee children and support schools teaching a Syrian curriculum so kids can continue in their education where they left off.

Learn more about One Day's Wages, and stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information about how you can get involved.

Half the Sky

1MT-climbers

The 1MT Kilimanjaro team summited Kilimanjaro on International Women's Day to honor their sisters who suffer violence in war zones.

Editors Note: What follows is an update about One Million Thumbprints from Stephan Bauman, President at World Relief. 

Today at dawn, my wife, Belinda and 13 other climbers, summited Mount Kilimanjaro, the rooftop of Africa, in honor of women worldwide who face violence in conflict zones around the world.

Belinda met Esperance while visiting the Democratic of Congo several years ago. Esperance watched her husband die at the hands of rebels and was violently raped. She would have died if her sisters hadn’t rescued her. Across a blank sheet of paper, Esperance had someone write the words: “Tell the world.” Then she stamped her thumbprint underneath. Esperance's thumbprint became Belinda’s mandate: "Violence against women in war is violence against me," Belinda says.

Esperance's story gave birth to One Million Thumbprints (1MT), a grassroots movement focused on women who’ve been affected by violence in war zones. 1MT is advocating the UN and other governing bodies to follow through on resolutions and laws passed to protect women in conflict zones and are partnering with proven organizations like World Relief working in countries where women experience violence.

“I realized that no matter where violent conflict occurs, it has the capacity to destroy everything, from the tiniest baby to the infrastructure of an entire society,” says Lynne Hybels, peacemaker, catalyst and visionary of One Million Thumbprints, having pioneered its precursor, Ten For Congo. Lynne summited Kilimanjaro today to raise awareness and invite thousands more to join Esperance's cause.

Esperance from Congo inspired 1MT with her thumbprint and the words "Tell the World."

Today is International Women's Day where we honor "half the sky" by remembering the plight of women:

  • One out of three women in the world experience violence in their lifetime.
  • More than 530,000 women die in childbirth every year even thought the vast majority of these deaths are avoidable with simple and cost-effective health interventions.
  • An estimated 100 million to 140 million women and girls undergo female genital mutilation/cutting each year and thousands more are at risk.

The most vulnerable people in the world are hands-down, women. Esperance, Valonia, Lynne, Belinda and millions invite you to join them. Giving our lives to half the sky is absolutely a worthwhile call.

Who is a refugee and what do they go through to get to the U.S.?

Who is a refugee and what do they go through to get to the U.S.?

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.

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.

 

Update on Refugee Legislation and 3 Ways to Give Hope

Given recent events, the U.S. Congress has focused attention on the refugee resettlement program. Before going into the Thanksgiving recess, the House of Representatives decided to consider a bill HR.4058 this morning that would put additional cumbersome layers into the refugee program that would have essentially made the program obsolete. This bill passed the US House of Representatives. It is yet to be determined whether the Senate will take up a similar bill. If the Senate does consider a similar bill and it passes, the bill will end up on the President’s desk. The President has said that he would veto the bill. When Congress comes back from recess after the Thanksgiving holiday, World Relief will continue to examine legislation and support efforts that will make the program more effective and robust. For more information on our response, see our Press Release below.

For now, here are 3 ways to engage in the refugee crisis. Show your support to those caught in the middle.

 

3 ways to engage in the refugee crisis

  1. GIVE to refugee families coming to the US from countries with hot climates. Provide warm coats, gloves & scarves for their first cold winter.
  2. PRAY for needs to be met for our representatives as they continue to evaluate how our country responds to the most vulnerable.
  3. WELCOME newly arriving refugees by meeting their practical needs.

 

 ****FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE****

World Relief Opposes H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act

 

“The passing of H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act is a major step back for our U.S. refugee program. Refugee admission already includes the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States. The goal of the U.S. refugee program has always been to accept refugees based on vulnerability and not to discriminate against any particular nationality. It should remain this way. We need to continue to welcome refugees into our country.” Stephan Bauman, World Relief

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would create an extra layer of certification in order for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to come to the United States in addition to reporting requirements.

World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, is strongly against this legislation and urges the United States to continue to welcome and protect Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

For 30 years, World Relief has partnered with local churches to resettle over 260,000 refugees to the United States. Since 1975, the United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees – three quarters of a million entered the U.S. since 2001 alone.

“The refugee resettlement program is a life-saving program that has helped millions of those who have fled persecution start their lives anew in a place of safety. At a time when the U.S. needs to show humanitarian leadership, it would be a mistake to effectively shut down a program that has saved millions of lives,” said Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. “It is vital to maintain the integrity of this program by accepting the most vulnerable refugees, not excluding anyone based on their nationality or religion.”

World Relief strongly opposed H.R. 4038- The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act 2015 due to the following reasons:

  1. H.R. 4038 creates a bureaucratic review process that could take years to implement and would effectively shut down refugee resettlement. The bill requires the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Department of National Intelligence for each individual refugee. The certification process will have to be created and agreed upon by heads of each agency and could take years to establish, stalling out the refugee program in the meantime. Under this scenario, refugee populations would continue to swell, languishing in camps and dangerous situations, and Syrian Americans would not be able to reunite with their family members. The ramifications for international refugee protection and U.S. foreign policy interests in the region would be costly.
  1. The process, once established, would add months or years to the security screening process, which is already the lengthiest and most robust in the world, routinely taking between 18 and 36 months. In addition to obtaining approval from three heads of federal agencies for each refugee, the bill requires reporting to thirteen congressional committees on each refugee that is considered for resettlement. This is unreasonably burdensome and will effectively end the program. Furthermore, for reasons of security and safety, security and medical clearances are only valid for limited periods of time. During the certification process, these clearances will expire. This will mean that refugees will be caught in an un-ending loop of security clearances.
  2. Refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country. All refugees undergo thorough and rigorous security screenings prior to arriving in the United States, including but not limited to multiple biographic and identity investigations; FBI biometric checks of applicants' fingerprints and photographs; in-depth, in-person interviews by well- trained Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings; investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center; and other checks by U.S. domestic and international intelligence agencies. Supervisory review of all decisions; random case assignment; inter-agency national security teams; trained document experts; forensic testing of documents; and interpreter monitoring are in place to maintain the security of the refugee resettlement program. Due to technological advances, Syrian refugees are also undergoing iris scans to confirm their identity through the process.
  3. The bill is a waste of resources. Funds used to establish and run this certification process would be better used in conducting actual security reviews of refugees and others who are vetted by these agencies.
  4. The bill is a pretext and requires differential treatment of refugees from Syria and Iraq without providing a justification for the additional verification. This would effectively stop refugees from two countries long beset by internal conflict, including refugees who have been in neither Syria nor Iraq for years.

To turn our backs on refugees now would betray our nation's core values to provide refuge for the persecuted and affirm the very message those who perpetrate terrorism would seek to send.

www.worldrelief.org / www.wewelcomerefugees.com

Contact: Jenny Yang / jyang@wr.org / 443.527.8363 / @JennyYangWR

World Relief CEO Stephan Bauman Calls for Every American Congregation to Welcome a Refugee Family

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