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World Relief Memphis, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland Host Press Conference on Creating a Community of Welcome for Afghan Allies and Parolees

September 9, 2021

Lauren Carl

MEMPHIS, TN – On Thursday, September 9, World Relief Memphis hosted a press conference with Memphis Mayor Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Harris, where they highlighted how the Memphis community can best prepare to receive Afghan allies and parolees in the coming weeks.

Since 2012, World Relief Memphis has served over 10,000 refugees and immigrants alongside the local church and their partners. As tens of thousands of Afghan refugees are fleeing violence, persecution and oppression following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Memphis community now has a unique opportunity to collaborate and welcome their newest neighbors from Afghanistan. A united community effort is needed to help ease the integration process and provide stability as new and aspiring Americans begin to rebuild their lives in the greater Memphis area.

Speakers included Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Rardin, Renewal Church pastor Chris Bennet and an Afghan refugee resettled in 2014 through a Special Immigrant Visa. The group addressed the need for a community wide effort to welcome our newest neighbors from Afghanistan, including the support of public, private and faith-based institutions and individuals in order to help meet resettlement expenses for newcomers in Shelby County and the City of Memphis.

PJ Moore, executive director of World Relief Memphis, commented:

“For 40 years, World Relief has sought to build welcoming communities by empowering the local church and our partners to serve people in vulnerable situations. Now, we have an opportunity to collaborate across the entire community to welcome our newest neighbors from Afghanistan. By coming together, we can help ease the integration process and provide stability as they begin to rebuild their lives here in the greater Memphis community.”

Jim Strickland, Memphis Mayor, commented:

“The greatness of any city is measured by its people,” said Mayor Jim Strickland.  “I welcome our newest residents to Memphis knowing our city will be enriched by their experiences and diversity. In addition, these families are having to flee their home country because their lives were at risk for assisting American troops; therefore, we must offer a helping hand to those who offered us help.”

Lee Harris, Shelby County Mayor, commented:

“Shelby County stands ready to provide support and stability to those fleeing violence and oppression in Afghanistan. I believe this will honor their service alongside our county’s veterans who fought valiantly during the War in Afghanistan. We know that these refugees, like the ones who have come before them, will make enormous contributions to our community.”

Andesh Saifodeen, Special Immigrant Visa holder resettled in 2014, commented:

“I would like to recite to you a quote from the Holy Scripture that is close to my heart. God Almighty states, ‘Those days of hardship we rotate and alternate amongst mankind.’ We may be in a better place than others today, and they need our help. Who knows when we could be the ones in need. Lending a helping hand is not only the right and most ethical thing to do, but it is also a great investment for our unknown future. I want to thank everyone here for taking action and being a part of this initiative. We have always been a very diverse city in Memphis. Accepting refugees and helping in times of crisis has been a major part of that tradition. It has made a big difference in my life as well as in the lives of many people I know. That’s why I’m here today. To show that I value this work and the work of Word Relief Memphis as we continue on the tradition of welcoming and embracing diversity.”

Kevin Rardin, Lieutenant Colonel Rardin, US Army, Retired, and current assistant Shelby County public defender, commented:  

“When I went to Afghanistan, I was a stranger in a strange land, but my interpreter and my colleagues in the Afghan Army welcomed me and showed me great kindness. My story is not unique, though. Many Afghans did the same for many Americans. Today, you and I here in Memphis have a chance to repay that kindness by welcoming our new neighbors to our city.” 

Chris Bennet, lead pastor at Renewal Church, commented:

“When I heard that several Afghan families would be resettled here in Memphis because of the imminent danger they faced at home, I was eager to welcome and comfort them. These vulnerable people find themselves having to abruptly start over in a strange new land and all they bring with them are empty hands and broken hearts. I’m reminded of Jesus’s words in Matthew 25:35 which reveal his heart for the refugee: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”  I am so thankful that we, the churches and residents of Memphis, have the privilege to show hospitality to Jesus by opening our hearts to our new friends and neighbors.”

About World Relief 

World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that brings sustainable solutions to the world’s greatest problems – disasters, extreme poverty, violence, oppression, and mass displacement. For over 75 years, we’ve partnered with churches and community leaders in the U.S. and abroad to bring hope, healing and transformation to the most vulnerable. Learn more at


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