Dr. Tamar Wasoian shares her hope for receiving citizenship and getting her ‘wings back’
August 16, 2021
When Dr. Tamar Wasoian was a little girl, she’d pray, “I want to serve you, God; please show me how to do it.”
This childhood prayer has turned into a life of service that has taken Wasoian from her birthplace in Aleppo, Syria, to her current home in Houston, on a journey she could never have imagined.
Wasoian’s grandparents survived the Armenian genocide of 1915 and settled in Syria. During her years growing up in Aleppo, Wasoian was raised in the Armenian Orthodox and Reformed churches. Her preparation for ministry led her to the New East School of Theology in Beirut, McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois.
She has taught at Garrett and McCormick and served as a PC(USA) International Peacemaker. She is now director of the Lifespan Religious Education Program at the Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston and teaches online for Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and Wesley Divinity School in the Philippines.
Wasoian also recently came under care of the Presbytery of New Covenant in Houston to seek ordination as a minister of Word and Sacrament.
Wasoian is excited about this new path in her life, but getting here has not been easy. While she was working on her doctorate, the war began in Syria in 2011. It was not safe to return. Her parents and sisters were able to resettle in Sweden as refugees and are now Swedish citizens. Wasoian remains here under Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
The word “temporary” is apt because she is in a constant “place of limbo.” TPS has to be renewed every 18 months. The renewal isn’t automatic and takes five months to process. “Every time I reapply, it’s two pounds of applications, and when I send them, I hope someone will be paying enough attention to process it,” she said. She needs to have her work permit on time so she can teach, and she has to get a new driver’s license every 18 months, which is hard to imagine for those of us who complain about the occasional trip to the DMV. “I have to do this over and over.”
The five months of lag time in processing is “awfully scary.” She feels vulnerable when complications arise, such as her work permit getting lost in the mail or people questioning whether she has legal status. But “you can’t live in fear; you have to give meaning to your life. I need my dignity,” she said.
“Citizenship means giving me my wings back,” said Wasoian. “As a woman from the Middle East, I worked so hard to get here. I thought a degree in the U.S. would give me possibilities, but then the war started, and my life has been this temporary situation.”
Congressional legislation could fix this “temporary” problem for Wasoian and people like her. Your voice is critical. Learn about how to work with your members of Congress urging them to pass pathways to citizenship at Faith In Action’s We Are Essential Campaign.
Abbreviated from the Presbyterian News Service article “Following her call, no matter the path” by Pam Wineman; photo courtesy of Dr. Tamar Wasoian
Article provided by Amanda Craft, Manager of Advocacy, Office of Immigration Issues, OGA
Today’s Focus: Dr. Tamar Wasoian
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
God, you call each of us to unique ministries that extend your grace, mercy and love to the world. Your faithful make extraordinary choices to follow out that call. Help us understand that we can create stumbling blocks. Help us understand how to eliminate those stumbling blocks and instead seek ways to encourage positive investment in community. May your justice reign. Amen.