Syrian refugee crisis highlighted at seminar with Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

Presbytery of Long Island representatives hear from many voices

November 18, 2015

Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, introduces John Solecki of UNHRC, the UN Refugee Agency.

Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, introduces John Solecki of UNHRC, the UN Refugee Agency. —Paul Olson

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Even before the attacks in Paris over the weekend, the Syrian refugee crisis has been generating discussion and responses among Presbyterians across the country and from our partners around the globe. The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations recently hosted more than 60 Presbyterians from a dozen congregations to discuss the crisis. The intergenerational group from the Presbytery of Long Island heard from several experts about the reality of human displacement at the present time and explored ways congregations can respond.

“The group learned that more than 60 million men, women and children have been displaced around the world with children making up more than 50 percent of our displaced sisters and brothers,” said the Rev. Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. “Since 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have become refugees and over 7 million are internally displaced. They want to return to their homes, but it could be years before that happens.”

In addition to Koenig and Ryan Smith, Presbyterian representative at the UN, speakers included John Solecki of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and Mansi Metha with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Solecki told the group the present situation involves more people being displaced at any time since World War II. He also noted that the humanitarian crisis in Syria, like many humanitarian crises, does not have a humanitarian solution but will require a political solution. Metha discussed the impact on Syria’s children saying many only know life as a refugee.

“The program was both educational and inspirational. We gained an understanding that refugees want to be with their community and really want to go home,” said Linni Deihl, Presbytery of Long Island/Westhampton Presbyterian Church Peacemaking Representative. “There are a lot of intelligent folks in Long Island Presbytery and a lot of interest in this subject.”

Susan Krehbiel, who works part-time with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance on the PC (USA) humanitarian and advocacy response with refugees and asylum seekers, wrapped up the presentation discussing how Presbyterians are working with church partners to care for refugees in Syria and around the world.

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Because of the larger attendance, the seminar was conducted at the Church of the Covenant. Interested groups may contact Mark Koenig for information on how to schedule a seminar, click here.

For information on how to respond to the crisis in Syria, click here.