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Lent: Refugees

So, who are refugees? Well, according to the 1951 Refugee Convention they are specific groups of people who cannot rely on their own government for protection and fear persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a specific social group, or political opinion. (UNHCR)

In other weeks we have talked about migrants/immigrants who choose to move to create a better life for themselves or their families. It is important to note that refugees are in a very different situation. Refugees are leaving their homes because they fear for their life, safety, or freedom. They cannot rely on their own government to protect them because in some cases their own government is the persecutor. If other countries do not take them in, they may be condemned to death or a life with out rights. (UNHCR) I'll note here that the United States is just one of many countries around the world that offers shelter to refugees.

Arriving in a new country, refugees are incredibly vulnerable. The Episcopal Church through Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) helps thousands of refugees each year. The Presiding Bishop observes in her statement on the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Act, "The renewal and transformation experienced by those who flee war, oppression, and persecution and find safety here finds a complement in the transformation experienced by Episcopalians who have assisted refugees in their communities over the past three decades."

With the assistance of staff in 30 affiliate offices located in 26 dioceses, EMM has assisted refugees from around the world who fled instability and danger in places like Africa (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan); East Asia (Burma, Vietnam); Europe and Central Asia (Moldova, Russia, Uzbekistan); Latin America and Caribbean (Cuba, Colombia); Near East and South Asia (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Iran, Iraq).

These persons are now members of every community into which they have resettled. They are our neighbors. Local Episcopalians provide an anchor of friendship, but the need for such ongoing help persists. If you are interested in learning more about the ministry of refugee resettlement and how you might be involved visit the Episcopal Migration Ministries website here.

Mary Getz

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