Since writing last week’s blog addressing food security in our diocese, I’ve heard from others whose congregations are participating in some form of action to meet the needs of their community. I’d love to highlight these congregations so I will need some information from you about what’s happening: the program, how it started, your goals, and how it’s going. Also, please send a few photos that we can share. Sometimes all it takes to get others involved is to see what someone else is doing. Please, let me hear from you!
I’d like to begin this week’s blog with a big “thank you” to Allison Duvall of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) for keeping us well-informed about refugee resettlement and how we can make a difference! She recently shared a call to participate in a webinar on July 29th sponsored by the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) designed to bring all of us up-to-date on refugee resettlement in the US now and prepare us for what’s coming in the future. Here’s a link to the audio of that webinar so you can listen, as well – https://recordings.join.me/uvvxL0PhUUytQBIkY-YxPQ
I learned that there are 2 important events coming up. The first is the UN Refugee Summit on September 19th which will be followed on September 20th by the President’s Refugee Summit on September 20th. The UN Summit is the first time that the General Assembly is hosting a program for Heads of State and government leadership addressing the movement of refugees and migrants. Their goal is to bring countries together in a more humane and coordinated plan.
President Obama, in cooperation with co-hosts from Germany, Canada, Ethiopia, Jordan, Mexico, Sweden and the UN Secretary General, has pledged to work to advance the objectives of the summit through direct action as well as through encouraging robust action by other UN member states. Key impact areas to be addressed include education, employment and endorsement. To address these, the President’s Summit has three main goals:
- To generate a 30% increase in financing for global humanitarian appeals going from $10 billion in 2015 to $13 billion for 2016
- To double the number of resettlement slots and alternative legal pathways available to refugees and to increase the number of countries accepting refugees
- To increase the number of refugees in schools worldwide by one million and the number of refugees granted the legal right to work by one million.
On June 30th, the White House issued a Call to Action for the private sector to make new, measurable and significant commitments that will have a durable impact on refugees. You can find the Call to Action here – https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/30/fact-sheet-white-house-launches-call-action-private-sector-engagement The Call to Action also identifies private sector partners that have already committed to humanitarian support for refugees including Accenture Federal Services, AIRBNB, Chobani, Coursera, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, IBM, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Linkedin, Mastercard, Microsoft, TripAdvisor, UPS, and Western Union. You can read the specifics of each company’s involvement on the Call to Action page.
The webinar presented 3 action items for us before the President’s Summit:
- An Advocacy Postcard to be delivered to each member of Congress on their first day back in session. As soon as the cards are available, perhaps one person from your congregation can print them, have them signed and returned to 110 Maryland Ave, NE, Suite 110, Washington DC, 20002 by August 31st.
- A faith leaders sign-on letter on refugees to be sent by August 31st – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeYAoNFTgKNn76PUcHgCmGMH80AFBIXKQ-u4m6Zk4qs0vwtNw/viewform
- An on-line petition created by World Relief for any individual to sign in support of refugees – http://www.worldrelief.org/refugee-summit
Between now and September, Congress is considering funding measures for the next fiscal year (2017) which would keep money for refugees at the 2016 level. President Obama has promised to raise the number of refugees being resettled next year to 100,000 from the 85,000 in 2016. To meet this goal and adequately welcome and support those arriving, the budget will have to be increased. Without raising these funds, refugee families will suffer as well as the communities that welcome them. Call your Members of Congress and go in to visit them while they are at home in their districts to ask for this increased support. Episcopal Public Policy Network has posted a shout out for our calls to Congress on this issue. Please take a moment and offer your support here – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/episcopal/RefugeeAdvocacy?platform=hootsuite
To help in your calls and visits, RCUSA has prepared a Toolkit to make the task easier – http://www.rcusa.org/uploads/images/RCUSA%20FY17%20Appropriations%20Toolkit_07.28.16.pdf
Before I close, I want to share a link to a segment I heard on Michigan Radio’s program “State of Opportunity” this morning. Reporter April Van Buren spoke of refugee resettlement in Michigan – especially in Ingham County where more refugees are resettled than in any other county in Michigan. Lansing’s Refugee Development Center (http://www.refugeedevelopmentcenter.org/) provides year-round services including English classes, after-school programs and access to a social worker. They also host a summer camp called GLOBE (Gaining Learning Opportunities through Better English). Some of the young adults in the camp participated in the Newcomers New Ideas Youth Pitch Competition where they presented their entrepreneurial prowess. Michigan’s refugees are ex cited to become vital members of their communities. Please take a few moments to listen to the broadcast – http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/why-investing-refugees-pays
As I learn more, I will certainly keep you informed. Here are some other helpful sites that have resources and other up-to-date information –
Let us pray –
Gracious and loving Lord, you have, indeed, made of one blood all the peoples of this world. Forgive us for the many times we forget this and act selfishly and unjustly toward those we don’t know. Help us to remain focused on the building of your Kingdom by loving all our neighbors as we love you. Give us the grace we need to welcome newcomers to our shores and see them as our brothers and sisters also made in your image, and give us courage to speak out in their support to those who have power. All this we ask in the precious name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee