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Faith communities call on administration to welcome 75K refugees


Office of Public Witness director joins prayer vigil outside White House

By Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins and other faith leaders pray for refugee resettlement in front of the White House. Church World Service photo

LOUISVILLE – The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Office of Public Witness, joined faith leaders from major Christian denominations to host a prayer vigil and rally in Lafayette Park in front of the White House on Wednesday. Their call to witness was to demand that the Trump administration stop slashing the refugee program and welcome 75,000 new refugees in 2019. The rally, sponsored by Church World Service, was held prior to the administration’s planned consultation meeting with Congress, which is expected soon, although no firm date has been set.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to admit 25,000 or fewer refugees in 2019, a reduction from last year’s lowest goal in history of 45,000 and a significant reduction from 85,000, which has been the average goal since 1980. Hawkins, along with representatives from the United Church of Christ, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the Franciscan Network, the Episcopal Church, refugee leaders, immigration activists and others called for the faith community to welcome refugees and for the U.S. to reclaim its commitment as a leader in international humanitarian efforts.

“As people of faith we understand that when the state won’t speak, when the nation won’t speak, that we will raise our voices to speak louder to say we stand with refugees from wherever they come,” said Hawkins. “There is a place in this country and our churches and in our homes for all people who have such a need.”

A recording of the event from the Church World Service’s Facebook page can be viewed here.

Each year, hundreds of Presbyterian churches commit to assisting newly arrived refugees with financial and transportation support, job and school orientation, and tutoring and mentoring programs. Churches in San Jose, California, used sale proceeds to launch a transitional housing program for refugee men who arrive in the country alone. Immanuel House offers a place of refuge while they look for their first job and apartment and get oriented to the local community.

Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the founder of Kentucky Refugee Ministries, receives new refugee families each year and helps them settle into their new community through cooperatives and fellowship opportunities.

First Presbyterian Church of Cazenovia, near Syracuse, New York, answered the global refugee crisis call and founded a new refugee ministry last year. Just two months ago, they welcomed a young Iraqi family with three young girls into their Cazenovia Welcomes Refugees program by placing them into their newly renovated historic manse.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of Presbyterian churches have welcomed refugees through the years, believing in them, accompanying them through hardships and investing in their dreams,” said Susan Krehbiel, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance associate for refugees and asylum. “In the process, we have been humbled by their courage and perseverance and honored to be called their friends and family. There is still time for President Trump and Congress to do the right thing, to recommit to refugee resettlement and a goal of at least 75,000 refugees next year. We ask all the churches whose lives have been touched by the resettlement of a refugee to join us in praying that it may be so.”

Call 202-224-3121 to connect to your senators’ and representatives’ Washington, D.C., offices and convey your position on refugee resettlement.

More information about Wednesday’s prayer vigil and rally can be found by searching the hashtags #Pray4Refugees and #Welcome75K. To support or donate to refugee advocacy, visit

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