Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you today to ask for a time of prayer and recommitment to ministry with refugees and asylees. June 20th is world refugee day and June 29th through July 2nd is refugee advocacy week. This year we enter into the season of honoring and remembering refugees and asylees in the middle of a worldwide refugee crisis. Over 13 million refugees wait not knowing if they will ever go home or get the chance to make a new home in a new country. The United Nations calls this time the worst migration crisis since World War II.
Syrians, in their fourth year of armed conflict, have fled and asked for asylum in more than 90 countries. Though Syrians are still in need of safe-haven, their neighbors are beginning to require visas and close border gates.
Families fleeing armed conflict and the terrorism of Boko Haram are leaving Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Nigeria and attempting to seek safety in Europe. Hundreds are dying on their voyage in the Mediterranean Sea.
The government of Myanmar abuses many ethnic minorities including the Rohingya who are considered stateless. Earlier this year thousands who fled Myanmar spent weeks starving in boats in the Andaman Sea while Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia refused to let them come ashore.
Tens of thousands of women and children fleeing gang violence and domestic violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador arrived at the U.S. southern border in 2014. Our government responded by opening up prisons for asylum-seeking families and partnering with Mexico to interdict them so that they never reach the U.S. to make a claim of protection.
At this time when so many are in need, refugee receiving countries are violating the United Nation’s Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees by penalizing refugees for illegal entry and returning refugees to the countries from which they seek protection.
To many, it appears as though there is no room at the inn. No room in our economies and no room in our hearts. We, however, are persons of faith. We know that though Mary and Joseph were turned away, a child still entered the world, inn or not that night. That child grew into a man and this man stood at the water’s edge and convinced his disciples, who could only see the scarcity of the situation, to feed a crowd of thousands from five loaves and two fishes. And we know that all were fed.
Refugee outreach and advocacy is in the DNA of Presbyterians. We profess a faith in Christ whose family fled to Egypt with him as a newborn to protect him from being killed by Herod. We follow a theology influenced by John Calvin, a man who was exiled from Geneva for following his faith and who later ministered to refugees in both Germany and Switzerland. I am heartened and inspired by the outreach and advocacy work of many Presbyterians. I write today to call upon those in the church who are not already involved to join in. Use these weeks in June and July to pray and recommit to advocacy and outreach with refugees and asylees. Please use the resources of the church through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Office of Immigration Issues to help your church get involved.
Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)