REFUGEES & Conservative Churches Resettling Refugees: Why/How They Do It #AtlanticMonthlyMagazine

by Priscilla Alveraz, The Atlantic Monthly Magazine, 9/11/16.

“..The plight of refugees is very much in front of our churches right now,” said Russell Moore, the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Christians have a special affinity for Syria because this is a place that is very much part of our geography and our backstory. The Syrian crisis prompted the attention of many Evangelicals.”

…We’ve consistently had significant support from churches across the board from very conservative churches to other more liberal churches. It’s never been an issue for us to really emphasize with churches that need to help some of these refugees,” said Jenny Yang, the vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, one of the agencies that partners with the federal government to resettle refugees.

The State Department works with nine agencies to place refugees around the country, six of which are faith based. To be processed as a refugee, an individual has to meet the U.S. definition of “refugee” and be “among those refugees determined by the President to be of special humanitarian concern in the United States; not be firmly resettled in any third country; be otherwise admissible under U.S. laws.” There are caveatsthat can keep someone from being admitted, but if approved, agencies will then work with local churches to resettle refugees. World Relief, an Evangelical organization, is among them.

World Relief’s site says its mission is “to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable.” Within the last 30 years, the group has helpedmore than 250,000 refugees. Local churches are instrumental in the effort, since they’re tasked with welcoming and resettling a refugee in the community, a process that can take several months…

Hope Point Church in South Carolina knows it well. The church began working with World Relief to resettle refugees roughly two years ago. Since then, they’ve worked with a total of nine refugees from the Congo. But the events that occurred within the last year brought a “sense of concern” among the community, said Richard Smith, the lead pastor at Hope Point. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called on Secretary of State John Kerry to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees due to concerns about the vetting process.

Still, the state has received around 22 Syrian refugees as of mid-June and is expected to resettle 26 more. Smith has tried to emphasize the plight of refugees in his congregation to shift attention from a heated national discourse to one “motivated by compassion.” These challenges are emerging across the country, particularly as the refugee crisis, which the United Nations called the worst since World War II, continues.

Samira Page, an Iranian refugee and now executive director at Gateway of Grace, which works with churches across denominations in Texas to assist refugees, noted that “the concern (about refugees) already existed; they were just intensified after the Paris attack.” Page has noticed that refugees that have been in the United States are afraid, as a result of the rhetoric. “They feel like they’re being identified as people from whom they escaped. They’re being identified as their oppressors and that’s a very scary thing for them,” she said…

In June, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution calling on churches to welcome refugees at their annual meeting. “Scripture calls for and expects God’s people to minister to the sojourner,” the resolution reads. “We encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His throne.” The occasion marked the first time in more than 20 years that a resolution about refugees was included…

Read more at … http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/the-conservative-churches-resettling-refugees/499421/