How To Actually Welcome Refugees

World Relief Atlanta Office Director Joshua Sieweke welcomes Malik, a 9-year old Syrian refugee, at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

World Relief Atlanta Office Director Joshua Sieweke welcomes Malik, a 9-year old Syrian refugee, at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

For almost 40 years, World Relief has been proud to resettle over 270,000 refugees from across the world here to the United States. On average, our offices resettle 650 refugees each month.

Next month we are projecting that World Relief’s local offices will resettle 1,350 refugees.

That means that in October, we’ll be resettling over TWICE as many refugees as normal. The challenge ahead for our local office staff and volunteers in the next month is nothing short of monumental. Which means we’re doing all we can in the next week to make sure local offices have everything they need.

Why?

We know that when we welcome refugees to the United States, the lives and futures of refugees are—quite literally—changed forever.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your help.

Donate to World Relief by September 30 to help support the work of resettling refugees in the month of October.

 
 

This week, I was invited to attend President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. It was an invitation I felt humbled and grateful to accept, knowing that my attendance represented the tireless work of thousands of World Relief staff and volunteers for almost 40 years. And as I sat at the UN, surrounded by dozens of leaders from over 30 different countries, I was struck by a simple thought...

Without the dedicated efforts of the thousands of staff and volunteers from World Relief and other resettlement agencies, the commitment of these world leaders to refugees would go unfulfilled.

Without our local staff and volunteers, refugees would arrive at airports—often scared and confused—with no one to greet or guide them. But instead, small groups of smiling faces welcome them onto U.S. soil.

Just last month, staff and volunteers welcomed Hashim, Mariam and their two children to Atlanta’s international airport. Having fled their home in war-torn Syria, Hashim and Mariam arrived to the United States longing for safety, stability, and the promise of brighter future for their two children, Malik (9 years old) and Muna (18 months old). As Malik reached up to shake hands with World Relief Atlanta’s Office Director Joshua Sieweke, Josh leaned down and said, “Welcome to America. We’re so glad you’re here.” (pictured above)

We believe that compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. We can honor both. We know that after being displaced from their homes, refugees are vetted by multiple agencies, including the UN and U.S. Department of State, for up to two years. So when refugee families arrive, it is our great privilege to welcome them here.

We don’t just say refugees are welcome, we make sure they actually are welcomed, and feel welcomed.

In the next seven days, you have the opportunity to help us welcome refugees during one of our busiest months to date. If for any reason you’ve been waiting to become a part of the solution, now is your moment.

Since my time at the UN, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of attention refugees have been receiving in the news. At times I’ve felt discouraged, as voices of fear have tried to convince us that refugees should be seen only as a threat. But other times I’ve been profoundly encouraged, as voices of compassion and hope have risen up. These voices have reminded us that not only is it a moral and Scriptural imperative that we welcome refugees, but also that refugees have the potential to contribute to and enrich our country in countless ways. It’s simply unthinkable that we wouldn't welcome refugees.

Through all of the events of the past week, I’ve sensed that God is clearly at work, moving people in new ways to care for refugees.

I invite you—even as you read this email—to stop for a moment and prayerfully consider if God might be moving in you too.

If so, there’s never been a better, more effective time for you to give than there is between now and September 30.

Give today to ensure that we do all that we can to rise to the challenge of wholeheartedly welcoming refugees.  

For the sake of the refugees and the displaced,

Scott Arbeiter
President, World Relief

 

How Do We Help Our Kids Stand with the Vulnerable?

At World Relief, it’s in our DNA to stand with the vulnerable. With school back in session and all of the dynamics that come along with this season, how do we teach our kids to stand with the vulnerable?

This week, as many children in America start a new school year, I can’t help but think of the thousands of immigrant and refugee children starting the academic year at a new school, in a new country, learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture with the hopes of making new friends.

These kids may be scared, excited, happy, sad or—at times—all of the above. But, like all kids, they mostly want to feel included and welcomed in their new environment.

As a parent myself, the start of the school year always proves to be chaotic as we go from a free-for-all summer, to trying to assemble some sort of routine that will carry us through the day—from the morning mayhem to the afternoon witching hours of homework, hungry bellies, and dinner—before doing it all over again in Groundhog Day-like fashion.

As caregivers, we want the kids in our lives to do their best in school. We also want to raise children who help the world be a better place. And as engaged parents, even during this chaotic season, we can do this. We can envision our children to help those around them who may be vulnerable, so that their school is an environment where they and their peers can experience hope, confidence, possibility, growth and opportunity.

At World Relief, we talk a lot about standing with the vulnerable. In kid language, I would define a vulnerable person at school as someone that is being picked on or left out.

Amidst the chaos of a new school year, how do we help our kids think bigger than themselves as we try to raise global citizens? We pause the whirlwind—if only for a brief moment—to circle the wagons over dinner or pre-bedtime routines, to engage in intentional conversations with our kids. We help them understand how to identify a peer that may be vulnerable, and ask them if they’ve noticed anyone in their classroom or school who seemed vulnerable today. We ask how they can help make their classroom or school an environment where they and their peers can experience hope, confidence, possibility, growth and opportunity.

We know life is busy. So to help, we’ve created a free, downloadable, ready-to-print coloring page that we hope serves as a conversation starter for you and your kids. Together, we can help our kids not only be more aware and welcoming to the thousands of kids new to school in America, but also have the courage to stand with anyone who is vulnerable by simply being kind to them.

Who knows? Maybe plopping a few coloring pages and crayons on the table before dinner will help turn the after-school chaos into a meaningful evening, if only for a few moments.

I’m going to try this at our dinner table tonight.*


*Provided there isn’t too much homework.

In Remembrance of Alan Kurdi

[WARNING: The blog post below contains images that some readers may find disturbing.]

Alan Kurdi died one year ago today.

On September 2, 2015, three year old Alan’s lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey. The photo of Alan appeared on the homepage of just about every media outlet in the Western world. And perhaps for many, that day marked the first time we collectively mourned the senseless loss of a Syrian refugee’s life.

But, is the option any better for those who choose not to flee, who make the difficult decision to stay in their homes?

Just two weeks ago, the world was stunned as the photo of young Omran Daqneesh showed up on our computer and phone screens. We were forced to confront again that the Syrian civil war— and the refugee crisis in the Middle East—is far from over.

Photos courtesy European Pressphoto Agency

Photos courtesy European Pressphoto Agency

 

For Syrian families, it seems there are no good options. If you flee, your child’s life is at risk. If you stay, the bombs continuously move closer until one day they drop on your family.

Above all else, we continue to mourn Alan Kurdi on the anniversary of his death. We mourn for Omran,his family, and for the loss of Omran’s older brother, Ali.  

As we mourn, we also double down on our commitment to stand with the vulnerable, in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Since there is often no good choice for these vulnerable families, World Relief has chosen to stand with those who stay, and those who flee. We’re providing immediate aid, resettlement assistance, long-term economic development, and advocacy on behalf of those affected by war and violence.

We’re tired of seeing pictures that break our hearts. We know you are too. But we must continue to let our hearts be broken and be moved to act, until the day that pictures like Alan’s and Omran’s no longer appear on our screens.

The (Bloody) Face of Violence in Syria

If you haven't already, take a moment and watch the video below. It's not easy to watch. It shouldn't be. It's horrific, startling and heartbreaking.

It feels all too familiar. We are two weeks away from the one year anniversary of young Alan Kurdi's death. Seeing the photo of Aylan’s lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey was—for many—the first realization that something truly horrific was happening in Syria, and for those fleeing Syria.

This morning, these images of Omran feels like a second realization—that the Syrian conflict is far from over. That countless lives are being lost and destroyed by the civil war there. That children are literally being bombed out of their homes. While it’s not clear yet about the full circumstances of this incident in Aleppo, what is clear is that no child should be made to suffer in this way. Instead of finishing their summers wiping water from their faces after swimming practice, children are wiping blood from their faces. Instead of wearing smiles on their faces while playing with Legos, there are vacant looks of shock, as their homes and family members are lost.

Watching the video of Omran, it’s so easy to feel helpless. But each of us can help. YOU can help.

Donating to World Relief is not the solution to the Syrian civil war. We get that. But we truly believe that we can all offset human suffering, as we become change-makers. Your donation to World Relief allows us to continue investing in the lives of refugee children, like providing child-friendly spaces where kids like Omran can once again play, learn and grow.

Because this crisis continues every day, our commitment to Syrian refugees and others displaced in the Middle East MUST continue. We can not—must not—"grow weary in doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

VITAL STATS:

  • More than 300 people killed in and around Aleppo in the last two weeks. (source: ICRC, 8/18/16)
  • One out three killed were women and children. (source: ICRC, 8/18/16)
  • Currently 4,812,278 registered Syrian Refugees. (source: UNHCR, Government of Turkey, 8/16/16)