Presbyterians can provide a voice for people who are waiting to be resettled
June 20, 2019
In this season of Pentecost, we commemorate the Holy Spirit’s movement through a local group of apostles sent to proclaim the Good News to the world — dissolving tribal divisions between nationalities and languages. At the hand of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles’ understanding of their community was literally blown wide open. In Pentecost, we are reminded that God’s love extends to all, and that we are part of one family.
Today is World Refugee Day. It is also a day when we remember that we are part of a global family. The International Refugee Convention and U.S. Refugee Act are grounded in the recognition that we are connected and responsible for each other. Developed in response to the events of World War II, these laws establish that when a government is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, it becomes the responsibility of other governments to do so at the first moment of encounter at the international border.
Most of today’s 26 million refugees live in temporary situations inside their host countries, allowed to remain only until it is safe for them to go home. But what if going home isn’t really an option? For a small portion of the world refugee population, resettlement is the only viable option.
Since 1975, the U.S. has admitted almost 3.5 million refugees, an average of 80,000 refugees per year. Presbyterian churches across the country are hosts, mentors, friends and advocates for refugees who settle in their communities. Church World Service, founded by Presbyterians and other protestant denominations, is one of nine national organizations to resettle refugees through the U.S. State Department.
Presbyterians can be a voice for refugees waiting to be resettled, those whose voices are silenced by distance or fear. We can encourage our government to restore its historic commitment to receive and resettle at least 75,000 refugees in 2020. We can continue to partner with local resettlement organizations to meet the most basic of needs and to accompany refugees as they rebuild their lives here.
Resettled refugees are not the only refugees seeking safe haven and new beginnings in the United States. Every day, thousands of asylum seekers arrive at U.S. borders and airports. Like those who are resettled, they have left their homelands due to violence, political upheaval and human rights violations. They ask our government to recognize their plight in order to receive asylum. We can be a voice for humanitarian treatment of asylum seekers, asking our government to invest in pro-active processes within the region, to invest in alternatives to detention programs in the U.S., and to protect asylum seekers from abuse and neglect while in government custody.
“Aid to refugees and displaced persons” is one of the mandates given to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance by the General Assembly. Here in the U.S., PDA carries out this mission in three ways:
- National partnerships with ecumenical organizations and other denominational offices to coordinate our humanitarian work and advocate together for just policies.
- Grant-making, consulting and other in-kind support through presbyteries and synods to support local ministries with Presbyterian leadership. Many of these are in partnership with ecumenical or interfaith coalitions and nonprofits.
- Educational forums and resources for workshops and classes.
World Refugee Day resources may be found at pda.pcusa.org/page/world-refugee-day.
Susan Krehbiel, Associate for Refugees and Asylum, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Today’s Focus: World Refugee Day
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
On this World Refugee Day, we pray in profound thanksgiving for communities, congregations and people who see the face of God in the face of a wanderer, an asylum seeker or a refugee. We give thanks for those who offer hospitality to newcomers, provide advice and resources, speak a prophetic word, open their homes and their hearts, and make waters flow in the desert. We pray for those who have made their way across continents, oceans and rivers in search of safety, peace and new life. May your Holy Spirit be with them, guiding them still as they bring all their energy, hope and gifts to build a better future together in their new homeland. Amen.