Subject: NCC Weekly News: Churches Respond to the Refugee Crisis

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From Jim: My Own Migrant and Refugee Heritage
This is a special issue of the NCC newsletter focusing on the unfolding refugee crisis in Europe and the church’s response to it.

Sometimes, it’s challenging to differentiate between refugees and migrants. In my own family, some came to the U.S. in the wake of the 1848 revolutions that swept across Europe. We’re not sure if they were refugees fleeing political persecution or if they were migrants.

Another branch of the family were Scots Irish who made the trek from Scotland through Ireland and on to America. They made their way down the Appalachians to North Carolina and eventually on to Arkansas and Oklahoma. We don’t know if they were rebels against the English Crown or were victims of the Enclosure Movement. They might have been refugees and they may have been migrants.

It is likely that the current refugee crisis unfolding in Europe is the worst to occur in my lifetime.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in Article 14, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Article 15 says: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” Put simply, migration is a basic right that belongs to all.

The movement of human populations from one place to another on the globe has been continual for eons and it’s not about to stop whether walls and fences are constructed or laws are passed. People will seek a better life for themselves and their children whenever and wherever they can.

The first time I traveled to the Philippines I arrived in the middle of the night and caught a taxi into downtown Manila. When we pulled up to a stoplight, I was startled to see a child of perhaps 12, the age of my own daughter, holding an infant, standing right next to my window and asking for money. As I moved to lower the window, the taxi driver yelled at me not to do so. He warned me if I were to give her assistance the taxi would be instantly surrounded by others in need. I’m sure if she could see a way to migrate to a place where she could find a better life for herself and her child, she would take it, just like my own ancestors did.

Spiritually, we were once slaves in Egypt and it is incumbent upon us to welcome the stranger, the foreigner, the migrant, and the refugees. It’s as simple and complicated as that.

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

STATEMENT: The Syria Refugee Crisis and the Churches

The National Council of Churches echoes and endorses the call of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service for the US Government to open its borders to 100,000 Syrian refugees this coming fiscal year, in addition to increasing the total U.S. resettlement commitment to 100,000 refugees from other parts of the world. Along with our ecumenical colleagues in the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe, we also call upon the European Union to put in place policies which enable safe and legal pathways into Europe including issuing of humanitarian visas, lifting of visa requirements for persons fleeing from conflict zones, easier and more generous family reunification for persons in need of or granted international protection, and humanitarian admission.* And along with all people and organizations of goodwill, we call upon the United Nations and its member states to commit its diplomatic and humanitarian agencies to bring about an end to this crisis.

From the very beginning, the Church has identified itself with refugees. Our ancestors in faith were themselves refugees when they fled the chariots of Pharaoh after escaping from slavery. Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled to Egypt to escape the sword of Herod. Whenever early Christians were persecuted, they were made refugees. Since the first century, when people have fled violence and other calamities, and sought refuge in other places, often the welcome they received in these foreign societies was symbolized, and indeed motivated, by the open embrace of churches providing sanctuary and material assistance. Christians and Jews alike have heeded God’s command, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19, NRSV).”

Welcoming the Stranger: Difficult and Necessary

The arrival in Europe of massive numbers of Middle Eastern refugees is causing crises for humanitarian organizations and churches as well as for governments. At such a time, scripture draws us to Matthew 25:35b: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Jesus said in a sermon about the behavior he expects of those whose lives reflect the grace and love of God.

The thousands of displaced persons pouring out of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and various parts of Africa into Europe put a tremendous strain on regional and global economics, political and social systems, and human compassion. Christians know our responsibility: Welcome the stranger, and that can be a tough mandate, difficult and risky, demanding of sober realism, and also full of potential for new insights and understandings about human and cultural relations.

Statement on Syrian Refugee Crisis

Community of Christ President Steve Veazey received the attached reflection on the Syrian refugee crisis from his friend and colleague, Alex Kahtava, leader for the World Hunger-Tangible Love Team and retired president of the Council of Twelve. President Veazey said, “Alex’s poignant reflection focuses our attention on human suffering and struggle that initially may seem distant to some. Through Alex’s reflection, what seemed distant becomes very close, demanding our attention and compassionate response.”

We invite all Community of Christ members and friends to join us in prayer for the safety and relief of refugees involved in this mass exodus from war. We urge everyone to become more informed about what is causing this crisis and how to help resolve it. We encourage people to support efforts in various nations to peacefully welcome refugee immigrants seeking asylum.

The Refugee Crisis: Congregational and individual responses

The Syrian Civil War, now in its fourth year, has unleashed a humanitarian emergency in which severe war crimes — including indiscriminate massacres, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender-based violence, and other humanitarian abuses — have become widespread. According to a recent UNHCR report, more than 4 million people (through the end of 2014) have fled their homes to escape the war in Syria, adding to a worldwide total of nearly 20 million refugees, half of whom are children. This is the largest and most widespread refugee crisis the world has known since World War II.

While record numbers of people are being forced to flee, powerful images of refugees fleeing Syria are compelling the world to action.


The media is publishing articles on a daily basis chronicling the most recent events and statistics. This crisis is complex geopolitically and historically (see here). The terminology can also be confusing. Follow Episcopal Migration Ministries on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date.


In 2015, the United States is welcoming 70,000 refugees to our country as new Americans.
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through Episcopal Migration Ministries, works in partnership with its affiliate network, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe. Your local resettlement agency is always preparing for arriving families and in need of financial support, resources and volunteers. Contact an Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliate near you.
ELCA presiding bishop calls for end to incursions onto Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinian property

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has urged chairs and ranking members U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees to call upon the Israeli government to halt the ongoing incursions onto Palestinian land and demolition of Palestinian property.

In a Sept. 10 letter to U.S. officials, Eaton wrote to express her distress about actions of the Israeli government that make prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians "more difficult in the short- and medium-term and threaten further the realization of a just two-state solution which so many of us seek."

As ELCA presiding bishop, Eaton said that she follows closely the situation in Israel and Palestine, "because the events there directly affect the situation and ministries of our companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and the lives, livelihoods and security of Israelis and Palestinians."

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Friends Committee on National Legislation is searching for a Legislative Director to be responsible for leading our multi-issue federal policy and lobbying for peace and justice. The Legislative Director guides and builds FCNL’s Quaker-based presence on Capitol Hill and effectively represents the legislative policies and priorities established by our governing body, the General Committee.

Jubilee USA is looking to immediately hire a Policy Director and a Communications Director in our Washington, DC office. We are also hiring regional field organizers in multiple locations around the country this Fall. Please see the link below for job descriptions and application instructions for the positions of Policy Director, Communications Director, and Regional Field Organizers.

OXFAM AMERICA: In our continued mission to end poverty, hunger and social injustice, we constantly strive to hire the best possible talent. Our people make a difference on a global basis every single day, and you have the opportunity to join our remarkable team.

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