World Refugee Day: A time of solidarity and celebration

Presbyterian churches are encouraged to take part

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Together with other faith leaders, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness, prays for refugee resettlement in front of the White House. (Photo courtesy of Church World Service)

LOUISVILLE — Activities are being planned nationwide for World Refugee Day, a time of solidarity and celebration for refugees, who have faced unique challenges during the Trump administration.

“On this day, we are reminded about the piercing policy changes made during this current administration,” said Amanda Craft, Manager of Advocacy in the Office of Immigration Issues for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of the General Assembly. “In the current fiscal year, we are only welcoming 18,000 refugees (as a nation). This is down from the regular annual goal of 75,000 individuals. This has a direct impact on families here and families waiting to arrive.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which provides humanitarian assistance to refugees and asylum seekers on behalf of PC(USA), looks forward to the annual observance of World Refugee Day as a way to connect with churches and get them involved. The official day is June 20.

“We ask churches to incorporate at least one worship element into their Sunday worship services between June 21 and July 5 to remember the refugees here and around the world,” said Susan Krehbiel, PDA’s Associate for Refugees and Asylum. It’s an opportunity for churches to “celebrate the gifts of refugees but also to remember those who are still looking for a place to call home.”

Refugee resettlement, accompaniment and advocacy have been pillars of mission for many in PC(USA) for decades, Craft said.

World Refugee Day “is the marker to remember the importance of these ministries, the larger family we have created through these ministries and the deep transformation of the church through these ministries,” she said. “Refugees add resiliency and new life to our communities.”

This year’s World Refugee Day activities include a Faith Community Virtual Town Hall with Church World Service, a faith-based organization working to improve communities around the globe. The event will be at 2 p.m. June 18 on Facebook.

“Several of the national denominations who partner with Church World Service will be hosting it, and we will have both national people like me and local people involved,” Krehbiel said. “We see it as a particular moment to lift up the impact of COVID on refugees but also the systemic issues that have been raised because of the terrible deaths of George Floyd and others. It’s not just a time of celebration. It’s also a time of awareness and recommitment.”

One of the scheduled speakers is Prince Mundeke Mushunju, pastor of El Shaddai Vision Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Speakers at an upcoming virtual town hall will include Prince Mundeke Mushunju, pastor of El Shaddai Vision Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Tamarah Ellen Photography)

“El Shaddai Church has many refugees among its members, so they know firsthand what other refugees need,” Krehbiel said. “When the pandemic reached North Carolina and businesses were ordered closed, many refugees were among the first to be laid off, and El Shaddai was there to minister to them and with them.”

The town hall will help viewers learn to become advocates for refugees. “We’ll certainly talk about things people can do through phone calls or emails to their members of Congress,” Krehbiel said. Also, “they’ll be hearing directly from refugees who live here in the United States about the work that they’re doing.”

Immigration will be the focus of the June 22 segment of “COVID at the Margins,” an ongoing series on the impact of the pandemic on minority communities. The segment starts at 12:30 p.m. on Facebook.

The work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is supported by One Great Hour of Sharing. It is one of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries.

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