CPJ Training Day to include panel discussion on migrants, refugees and displaced people


Speakers to bring perspectives from four regions of conflict

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Attendees at CPJ Training Day worship at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church last year in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Compassion, Peace and Justice

LOUISVILLE – As the U.S. government continues to debate the future of migrants, refugees and displaced people living in this country, the upcoming Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day will address the issue head-on. The daylong event, part of Ecumenical Advocacy Training Weekend, will provide Presbyterians an opportunity to learn more about the people most impacted.

The theme for the weekend is “A World Uprooted: Responding to Migrants, Refugees and Displaced People.” One of the highlights of CPJ Day is a panel discussion, featuring four special guests:

  • The Rev. James Makuei Choul, who serves as executive director of the Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency, the humanitarian arm of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan
  • Maha Kolko, a caseworker and co-sponsorship developer at Kentucky Refugee Ministries who is originally from Syria
  • Elmer Zavala, who pastors the Presbyterian Hispanic Latino Ministry of Preston Highway, a new worshiping community of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery that is comprised mainly of undocumented immigrants
  • Jung Bin Cho, a “DREAMer” who immigrated to the U.S. at age 7 from South Korea.

“Coming from four different regions of the world — Africa, Central America, Asia and the Middle East — they represent a full spectrum of issues facing those caught in the current crisis,” said Catherine Gordon, representative for international issues with the Office of Public Witness. “The push factors of conflict, corruption and climate are driving people to leave their homes. The senseless civil wars and increased violence in South Sudan and Syria have led to the worst crisis for refugees and internally displaced people since World War II.”

Gordon says the panel will also look at how the U.S. is responding to the crisis.

“How is our country contributing either directly or indirectly to the problems causing displacement? Why is our country cutting the number of refugees we allow into our country and forcing historic refugee offices to shut their doors during the worst refugee crisis in our lifetimes?” Gordon asked. “Three of our speakers are working with those affected by the U.S. immigration policy. They will address the issues of the DREAMers, the economic migrants and asylum-seekers from different regions of the world who are facing the interconnected issues of xenophobia, militarism, corruption and fear.”

Gordon says Choul works directly with internally displaced people from South Sudan. Kolko works with Syrian refugees in the U.S. while Zavala focuses on undocumented residents. Cho, who is a DREAMer himself, works to empower other DREAMers.

“The selected panelists have either personally experienced the issues facing refugees and displaced people or are working directly with those affected,” said Gordon. “All of the panelists have a deep knowledge of what it means for people to have to leave their homes and how the U.S. policies are making it worse.”

Gordon says she hopes the attendees will gain a visceral knowledge and empathy for those caught up in the current crisis of displacement.

“I hope they will see the interconnectedness of the issues facing our brothers and sisters caught up in the current crisis, as well as how we as a country can work to make the situation better,” she said. “I hope they will gain the knowledge to go back to their communities and churches and speak up for migrants, refugees and the displaced, while helping to move our country out of the grip of fear and hate towards love and hope.”

CPJ Training Day will be held at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on Friday, April 20.

Click here for more information about CPJ Training Day and how to register.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?