News and Views

People of faith mobilize around refugee crisis

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By Rev. Neal Christie

On Saturday the One Journey Festival celebrated the gifts and opportunities refugees offer the world as well as the many challenges refugees continue to face.  One Journey amplifies refugee voices and enhances public awareness of refugee talents and contributions. Especially as people of faith, we strive to build enduring allies for refugees and use cultural and technological tools to facilitate human connections between refugees and their host communities. One Journey’s grassroots movement began in September 2017. With hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, and partners, our team of community organizers has hosted 45+ refugee awareness-raising and celebratory events.

The world is facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. More than 22 million people have been forcibly displaced from their country by war and persecution. Did you know that In the first six months of 2022, more than 100 million people were displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations? This accounts for an increase of 10.7 million people displaced from the end of 2021. The total number of refugees coming to the U.S. has fluctuated with global events and U.S. priorities. From 1990 to 1995, an average of about 116,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. each year, with many coming from the former Soviet Union. From 2008 to 2017, an average of about 67,100 refugees arrived each year-- half or more coming from Asia, with many from Iraq and Burma Today, 55% of refugees have come from Asia, a far higher share than from Europe (28%), Africa (13%) or Latin America (4%).  

A few facts: People do not want to leave their homes. And worldwide, 1 in 110 people have been forced to flee their home to another country according to the UNHCR. People flee when they feel they have no other choice. Families seeking refuge should not be separated and the UMC Council of Bishops has joined other faith leaders to speak out prophetically on this UMC Council of Bishops. Refugees are entitled to human dignity and human rights. It’s estimated that 50% of refugees are under the age of 18.  Children need school and play and education and adults need vocational support and employment. The poorest countries house the most refugees and migrants. In the U.S, the number of refugees allowed into the country in 2021 was 15,000, the lowest level on record, but this has been increased to 62,500 on May 3, 2021.  Contrary to popular belief refugees contribute to the common good and support economic growth. Although media stories give the impression that the United States is swamped with migrants, the fact is that 85 percent of the world’s refugees are in the developing world. The country with the largest refugee population is Turkey, with almost 3 million refugees. One in three people in Lebanon is a refugee. The Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in Uganda alone is home to 229,000 South Sudanese who have fled civil unrest. What lessons can be learned from these countries: how do they welcome and host refugees with far fewer resources? 

“As United Methodists, we must live the gospel we proclaim. For such a time as this, we must preach the courage of our Wesleyan convictions, teach a theology that welcomes the stranger and advocate a witness that stands with the marginalized and oppressed... Now is the time for us to stand on the side of justice. In the words of Dr. King, 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.' Now is the time for us to stand on holy ground.”– excerpted from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling’s Statement on Jan. 31, 2017

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