June 20, 2022
June 20 is World Refugee Day. Displaced from their homes amid unimaginable circumstances, refugees’ journeys are long and difficult.
It strikes me that the Gospel lectionary text for this Sunday – Luke 9:51–62 – takes place in the middle of Jesus’ long and difficult journey to Jerusalem. He says: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Of the 26 million refugees worldwide, less than 1% will be resettled. Many will continue to live in prolonged exile with no place to call home — nowhere to lay their head.
Unlike Jesus, who had “set his face toward Jerusalem,” refugees don’t always have a say in their destination. The highly bureaucratic process grants refugees little agency in their future. Even for those who are ultimately resettled, their journey is far from over. They must face the challenge of putting down new roots, navigating an entirely new culture and context while simultaneously grieving the land, traditions and communities left behind.
Last month, I accompanied former refugees and asylees on visits with their congressional representatives during the Refugee Council USA’s Virtual Advocacy Days. While they spoke about their immense gratitude for the hospitality they received upon their arrival, they also spoke about the challenges of making this new land their home, of finding a sense of belonging, connection, joy and rootedness. It’s difficult to feel connected when you don’t have access to affordable housing, food, language or community. Without access to lifesaving services and the assurance of stability, the trauma and grief of displacement only compounds.
What is to be done? Welcoming the stranger is a necessary first step, but the work doesn’t end there. Those with the power and resources must ensure that all who were uprooted can be empowered to begin planting new roots in their communities. Whether through advocacy or accompaniment, churches have a responsibility to empower new Americans to create a new home through finding stability, comfort, belonging and joy in this strange new land.
To learn more about how your faith community can honor and empower refugees on this World Refugee Day, check out the PC(USA)’s resource on Preparing Welcome, Church World Service’s Community Sponsorship Manual and the many resources available at pcusa.org/refugee.
Emily Wilkes, Mission Specialist for Domestic Refugee Ministries, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: World Refugee Day
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
“Your way was through the sea,
Your path, through the mighty waters,
Yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
On this World Refugee Day, we pray for all who have been uprooted from their homes, journeying through desert roads and dangerous waters. Make your presence known alongside all who suffer. Prepare our hearts for the hard work of solidarity and embrace. Amen.
You 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.