The recent executive order has thrust refugees and resettlement agencies into limbo. Here’s how you can help.
As I boarded an airplane for Jordan in early January to deliver medicines from MAP International to Syrian and Iraqi refugees, my church, National Presbyterian in Washington, DC, was making final plans to resettle a refugee family in the US. I was overseas helping stock Jordanian refugee clinics with desperately needed medical supplies while my church back home was gathering furniture and household items for what we had begun to call “our family.” And while I questioned Jordanian pastors about how they helped refugees stay hopeful, my church was holding meetings to train members on how to support our incoming refugee family.
Two weeks ago, I came home ready to share what I had learned in Jordan and found church members excited about the imminent arrival of a family we were finally ready to welcome after months of preparation and prayer. However President Trump’s recent executive order put our church’s plans on hold—at least for the next several months—and thrust our refugee family, along with many others, back into limbo.
For many members of the congregation, the action was extremely disappointing and deeply unsettling. Some joined protests outside the White House to make their views known. We have a diverse membership, however, and others in our church defend the president’s actions and echo his concerns about the refugee resettlement program.
So how does our congregation—and others like it across the country—move forward in ways that unite rather than divide our members? And for those who want to participate in refugee resettlement, how do we find a constructive way to respond while the federal government keeps the door closed?
Drawing on my recent experiences with refugees, here are six suggestions for how your church can respond:
1. Educate yourselves.
There is a great deal of misinformation about immigration, refugees, and US policies springing up in social media, on websites, and even in the mainstream press. Get the facts. Our church recently held a refugee panel discussion (you can view it here) where we invited experts to share their perspectives and answer our questions.
Consider holding a book study or Sunday school class in which you focus on the historical facts of immigration and refugee resettlement. Many of the “debates” on social media are missing the larger context of US history and policy. To avoid conflict between members, set guidelines about what can be discussed and the manner in which opinions can be voiced.
If you’re looking for published resources, there are several good books on immigration written from a Christian perspective:
Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible by M. Daniel Carroll (Brazos Press)
Embrace by Leroy Barber (IVP)
Immigration: Tough Questions, Direct Answers by Dale Hanson Bourke (IVP)
Seeking Refuge by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Issam Smeir (Moody Publishers)
Welcome the Stranger by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang (IV)
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christianity Today
Dale Hanson Bourke