Category Archives: Advocacy

Veterans Day 2016—Sami’s story

When Sami talks about what motivated him to work with the U.S. military, one thing jumps out.

“I was interested to see what an American guy looked like. Are they like us?” he wondered.

You see, although he worked for the U.S. military, Sami isn’t American; he’s Afghan.

Sami (right) interpreted for the French and American military in Afghanistan

Sami (right) interpreted for the French and American military in Afghanistan

Sami learned English as a teenager and spent two years as an interpreter for French and American troops in Afghanistan. His work went far beyond just interpreting, though. Sami was often present in dangerous active combat conditions; his cultural knowledge helped American troops avoid even more treacherous situations.

For Sami and other interpreters, though, their work came at a cost beyond the battlefield. After he finished his service, Sami began receiving suspicious calls from unknown people asking for his address. One night, as he returned home from the gym, Sami was brutally attacked by three people and nearly died.

To protect these vulnerable veterans, in 2009 the U.S. began issuing Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghans who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government. Seven years later, 12,000 Afghan veterans—not to mention their families—are stuck in limbo and in danger as infighting in Congress leaves the program in jeopardy (NY Times).

Sami

For Sami, the wait to arrive to America lasted 18 months. Despite his long and traumatic path, he arrived to SeaTac Airport in July, eager to contribute to his new homeland.

Sami hit the ground running. Alongside the World Relief employment team, he found work within two months of his arrival to America.

“Sami’s personable and communicates well,” says World Relief employment specialist, Ellie White. “You can really see him succeed because of the way he interacts with people.”

Even as he builds a new life here, the repercussions of Sami’s U.S. military experience are still with him. He says that his greatest fear is that someone will take revenge on his three younger brothers who remain in Afghanistan.

Despite this worry, Sami is enjoying his new life in America. In his free time, he likes listening to classical guitar music and reading self-development books to continue to better himself. He’s already making plans to study accounting to one day become a CPA. Ultimately, he hopes that a degree will enable him to again bridge the gap between his first and second homelands.

“My life purpose is that Afghanistan should have mutual strategic business interests not just with the U.S. but with the rest of the world.”

Sami arrived to the Seattle Area in July

As we take time this Veterans Day to recognize the brave people who risk everything for our protection, I’d invite you to think about Sami and the thousands of others who are still in danger for their service to the U.S. military. What they lack in a common nationality, these men and women share in a mutual cause. As Sami put it:

“I thank the brave U.S. families who sent their sons [and daughters] who died in Afghanistan. If they are thankful for our service, we are more thankful to their sons [and daughters]. We are in one line against the same danger—fundamentalism. “

You can help welcome Afghans and Iraqis who have served alongside our forces by advocating for their families overseas who are still in danger.  Our hope is for them to be allowed to join their family members here in safety.  Visit worldreliefseattle.org/SIV to learn how you can help.

A Christian Conversation about Refugees

by Damon Schroeder, World Relief Director for US Integral Mission

Like a tsunami, waves of terror from the Paris attacks are crashing upon American shores. Valid questions pour in about the U.S. refugee resettlement screening process. Securing personal safety – in the face of sometimes overwhelming fear – drives these understandable questions.

Answers are not difficult to come by; but not every answer is actually grounded in the facts. Ideological agendas have seeded an answer-seeking rumor mill that spreads myths-as-fact via social media. As Charles Spurgeon quipped, “A lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is still putting on its boots.”

Church leaders like Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, have called for reasonable security combined with Christian compassion, “Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS.” “It is completely right to ensure that the United States have a strong process to discern who are truly refugees and who are trying to take advantage of refugees,” says Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, but “we cannot love our neighbors at the same we’re standing aside and watching them be slaughtered.”

Screening out terrorists is imperative and is the responsibility of our country’s national security agencies. That said…as Christians, what is our unique responsibility as followers of Jesus in all of this? What should we be most concerned about – should it be our safety?

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Our biblical identity makes us Christians first and Americans second – not the other way around.

Let’s take a step back. What if we moved from a security-centered refugee conversation to a Jesus-centered refugee conversation? It might look like exploring the Scriptures surfaced in Relevant Magazine’s article, “What the Bible Says about How to Treat Refugees.” It might also look like Christians in the West learning from Christians in the majority world who face terror and persecution daily as explained in the Christianity Today article, “Terrorists are Now the Persecuted Church’s Greatest Threat.” It might look like Christians asking the question, “What is God up to?” like the Desiring God blog that sees a sovereign God purposefully bringing the nations (rather than fear) to our shores.

A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might cause us to remember that we are in fact following a Middle Eastern Refugee Savior whose family fled a genocide to Egypt. We might remember that our biblical identity as “strangers and aliens” here on earth makes us Christians first and Americans second – not the other way around.

A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might look like learning how to follow a God who “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). This same sacrificial God commands us to “welcome the stranger” and “love him [the immigrant] as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).

As the tides of terror wash up on your emotional shores, make sure your fears are not being whipped up by rumors or by a loss of focus on Jesus the Refugee. Following Him as we welcome Muslim Syrian refugees into our homes and hearts might be the courageous mission He is inviting us to join.


Washington welcomes refugees!

If you live in the Puget Sound Region and would like to welcome refugees into our community, you can:

  • Build a Welcome Kit
  • Donate to provide resettlement services for the newest arrivals
  • Call or email your Senator and Congressional representatives to let them know that you support refugee resettlement in Washington and want to continue to see our State as a safe refuge for people fleeing terrorism and persecution.We Welcome Refugees Hashtag

Syria and Seattle

Written by Scott Ellis, Volunteer Coordinator at World Relief Seattle

Syria and SeattleWhen heartbreaking pictures and video from halfway around the world begin to appear on the news, in the papers, and even on our Facebook feeds it is hard not to feel a range of emotions. Seeing the haunting images and hearing the stories of the families connected to them often brings emotions of grief, sadness and even anger.  After these emotions often come questions.

What can I do?  Where do I even start? This problem seems so big…

For those here in Seattle seeing tragic images of Syrians and other refugees fleeing into Europe, one answer to these questions is to come alongside the work that is already happening locally and across the globe by Learning, Responding, and Welcoming.

Learn 

According to the UNHCR’s latest figures, 7.6 million Syrians are displaced within Syria, and 3.8 million have sought refuge in other countries.  This video by statistician Hans Rosling breaks down where Syrians are right now.

Due to the long vetting process that includes medical checks, several interviews and intensive background checks, only about 1,500 Syrians have been resettled into United States so far.  We at World Relief Seattle have yet to receive our first Syrian case, but other World Relief offices across the US have resettled families. We are preparing for them to come shortly, while at the same time resettling refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries facing turmoil.

World Relief Seattle has been welcoming and resettling refugees into Western Washington since 1979.  Our experience over those years has taught us that we are not meant to do this alone and so we invite local churches and the whole community to come alongside us in the work of empowering refugees who are arriving here weekly.

epa04915599 Migrants arrive on a special train service from Austria to Saalfeld, Germany, 05 September 2015. The refugees will be taken to accommodation in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia Saalfeld by bus. Thousands of refugees streamed into Austria and on to Germany after being allowed to leave Hungary, putting further strain on EU unity as the bloc struggles with its biggest influx of migrants since World War II. EPA/HENDRIK SCHMIDT

Respond

Pray – We have developed seven major prayer requests that begin to encompass the vast, often immeasurable needs of this vulnerable group. This SundaySeptember 13, 2015, we are inviting all churches and Christian Leaders to take a moment in your services and gatherings to discuss the incredible humanitarian tragedy faced by Syrian refugees and those fleeing persecution around the globe.

Advocate – Call your Senator and Congressional representatives to tell them you are in support of Syrian resettlement in the U.S., and encourage your church to rally behind the cause and do the same. Sign the White House petition for the U.S. to resettle more Syrian refugees.

Give: To give directly to World Relief’s work in Northern Iraq, Jordan and soon Turkey, click here.

  • Urgent Supplies – World Relief is providing urgent supplies for refugees like temporary shelter, hygiene items, pots, pans, cooking utensils, and more.  Supporting a refugee family with a kit of supplies in a place like Northern Iraq costs on average $550.
  • Trauma Therapy – World Relief is empowering local churches to provide therapy for women who have experienced unspeakable atrocities at the hands of Islamic State fighters. One Syrian refugee in Jordan said, “We have made so many friends. One day a week, I walk into this place and I can breathe.” The cost to provide trauma therapy for one woman for a year is $100.
  • Child Friendly Spaces – World Relief is working with local churches to provide child-friendly spaces for children to have a safe place to play, get basic education, process the trauma they have experienced, and be ministered to by loving Christians. This ministry costs about $120 for each child for one year.

Welcome RefugeesWelcome

World Relief Seattle will welcome its first Syrian family in the coming months and there are several ways you can come alongside us in that effort.

World Relief Resettlement Services Here in the US, World Relief works with local churches to welcome thousands of refugees every year. These refugees are supported with ESL classes, job training, house support, and in relationship with Christians from a local church.  Supporting the financial needs of refugee family making a transition to life in America costs about $3,500.

To give directly to Refugee Resettlement in Seattle, click here.

Hosting, Housing and Welcoming Refugees – TACOMA We are having a special training for families and individuals who wish to welcome refugees into our communities. We will be focusing on the following topics:

  • How to HOST families for 1-2 weeks or RENT directly to refugee families in need of sustainable housing
  • How to WELCOME refugees as Cultural Companions in one-on-one relationships
  • How to COME ALONGSIDE those seeking Asylum at the Northwest Immigration Detention Center
    What: A training for volunteers who wish to come alongside new refugee families in Western Washington
    When: Friday November 20th 5:30pm – 8:00pm
    Where: University Place Presbyterian Church – 8101 27th St W, University Place, Washington 98466
    RSVP: Please RSVP to Scott at sellis@wr.org by November 15th
    https://www.facebook.com/events/899767740117895/

The training will also go over the mission of World Relief to empower local churches and communities to respond to the needs of newcomers. We will talk about who refugees are, where they are coming from and why.

We Welcome Refugees No HashtagIf you have any questions about World Relief Seattle or want to learn more about how you can welcome refugees, please visit our website www.worldreliefseattle.org 

 

Read These Links: Refugees Add Life to Local Economies

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Happy Haloween, everyone!

Good morning friends. We have some interesting links to share with you today:

That’s all the news for today. Keep checking back for more updates and stories from our blog, Strangers in Seattle. May your days be filled with joy and laughter.

Immigration Reform: Update and Call to Action

Give me your tired, your poor, your...I-9 documentation.

Give me your poor, your tired, your…I-9 documents? Photo by: Amanda Wingers.

This month marks yet another crucial chapter in the quest for comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately, the story might be dying. Most voters want it. A strong bipartisan group began the debate in the Senate. Even a broad coalition of Evangelicals got behind the issue. Everyone from farmers to tech companies to economists have acknowledged our broken system and pushed for common sense reform.

And yet, we still find ourselves trying to convince the House of Representatives to consider passing legislation that would rewrite US immigration law for the first time in a generation.

Just last month, the US Senate passed a bipartisan bill which included an increase in border security, an increased number of visas for high-skilled workers, and an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (S.744).

As members of the House return home to their constituents for the August recess, we are facing a vital moment in the history of our nation’s narrative. At this current juncture, there are no concrete plans to begin debating immigration legislation when they return. This is an important time to voice your opinions to your representatives. What they hear now may very well determine the direction of the immigration debate, as well as the very lives of many of our neighbors and friends.

Despite the challenges, hope remains for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. Bipatisan support is growing stronger by the day. Washington State Representative Dave Reichert recently became the 22nd Republican Rep. to publicly support immigration reform.

But there is much work to be done. Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Sign the Washington Compact which outlines WA State’s discussion on immigration reform.
  • Visit www.worldrelief.org/advocate to write an email and call your Member of Congress.
  • Submit an op-ed to your local publication.
  • Attend a town hall meeting to voice your opinion to your representative.
  • Talk about immigration reform at your workplace, in your congregation and with your family.
  • For more detailed information, see World Relief’s August Recess Toolkit
  • Join us in prayer and reflection on how we can better serve our neighbors.

Becoming an American is bad for your health (and other links)

This photo has nothing to do with the post, but it looks pretty cool, right?

This photo has nothing to do with the post, but it looks pretty cool, right?

Here are some links we found interesting. Enjoy!

  • With funding from the Refugee School Impact Grant (RSIG), School’s Out Washington partnered with documentary filmmaker Jill Freidberg to produce a film chronicling the lives of refugee youth in Washington State.  The film highlights four youth from Burma, Nepal/Bhutan, Russia, and Somalia.
  • Next time you’re looking for a catering company, look no further than Project Feast – a local organization who works with refugees and immigrants to provide training and employment opportunities. Also, be sure to check out these Seattle-based, socially conscious fashion companies, one of which directly supports the work of World Relief. 
  • It turns out that becoming an American is bad for your health. A growing body of research on immigrants has shown that the longer they live in this country, the worse their rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. 
  • Immigration Reform remains at a critical point in our country. Please pray for our representatives. And please contact your local Representative by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121! 

“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral ”

– Paulo Freire

Prayer for Immigration

Dear friend,

 

Before we get to this week’s immigration reform prayer focus, please take
a moment to thank God for prayers already answered!  Two weeks ago we prayed that leaders in the House of Representatives would overcome their remaining differences and agree on a bipartisan immigration reform bill.  Some observers predicted that the bipartisan “Group of Eight” Representatives would implode over irreconcilable differences.  Instead, they announced on Thursday that, after four years of negotiations, they had come to agreement in principle on all major issues, and expect to release their proposal during the first week of June!

 

Stephan-BaumanThen last week we prayed that the Senate Judiciary Committee would reject any amendments that would jeopardize final passage of an immigration bill.  Many such amendments had been proposed.  There were some tense moments and difficult negotiations, but in the end, the Committee voted down all “poison pill” amendments and adopted a bill that retains the bipartisan support of all eight sponsoring Senators.  The bill now goes to the full Senate for debate and a final vote later in June.

 

This week, pray that constituents will articulate a compelling vision for immigration reform as they meet with members of Congress who are home for the Memorial Day recess.  Every few weeks members of Congress spend a week back in their home states and districts, reporting back to constituents and taking their pulse on the issues being debated in Washington.  This is one of those weeks.  With all the recent progress,  a lot is on the line.  Opponents of legislation often use the recess periods to rally public opinion against congressional sponsors.  But by God’s grace, this week will be different.

 

Will you pray with us this week?  Immigration supporters throughout the country will be gathering for special prayer times this Thursday, May 30. Please consider inviting at least two other people to pray with you on Thursday.  And throughout the week, as God prompts you, pray that your elected leaders will open their hearts and minds to embrace legislation that will fix our broken immigration system and create new opportunities for our nation to thrive.

 

With great anticipation,

 

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO
World Relief
On behalf of the Evangelical Immigration Table

Boston Bombing Should Not Change Our Perspective on Local Refugees, Immigration Reform

April 17th has passed, but  it's not too late to call your congress member!

April 17th has passed, but it’s not too late to call your congress member! Click here to get more involved.

By: Stephen Johnson / Photo Courtesy of the Evangelical Immigration Table

Note: This op-ed was submitted to several local media outlets last week. Please note that the opinions below do not necessarily reflect those of World Relief. For an official WR statement on the proposed immigration bill, click here.

As the Senate immigration reform debate continues, we must not let the attacks in Boston stifle the energy behind passing common-sense legislation. Even before the suspects were identified last week, there were calls for caution from senators who have traditionally opposed the bill. Xenophobia has been palpable in the streets. Language across social media platforms has turned benign followers into vitriolic fear machines.

Washington would benefit tremendously from immigration reform and we know it. The labor shortage in the agricultural industry has been well-documented by the Seattle Times over the past few years. Providing a legal path to citizenship for our approximately 230,000 undocumented neighbors will offer needed workers for our labor-intensive industries.[1] Thousands of talented young people brought here as children would immediately escape legal ambiguity and add a fresh jolt to our aging labor market. Families would be reunited, creating more stability within our society’s most valued institution.

In South King County, there has been a tremendous increase of refugees and immigrants over the last two decades, with the vast majority settling in suburbs like Kent and Tukwila.[2] Having worked with this population for years, we know firsthand the untold benefits of inviting more refugees and immigrants to our state. Resettlement programs attract millions of federal and state dollars to our communities each year. Entire apartment complexes in King County have transformed from dilapidated, half-empty units into thriving epicenters of the American Dream. Our new neighbors have added valuable diversity to our schools and workplaces. They bring an entrepreneurial spirit to our city with needed skills and unique experiences. We have assisted thousands of refugees as they get their first jobs in the USA. We can vouch that most are working and self-sufficient shortly after their arrival, paying taxes, buying homes and contributing to society.

As President Obama noted in his January speech on immigration, this is not about “us versus them” because “most of us used to be them.”[3] Even Mark Zuckerberg highlighted his own family’s path to the U.S. through Ellis Island in a recent article published in favor of immigration reform.[4] The act of terror in Boston should not arrest our determination on this issue; rather, it should encourage us to push even harder. Last week’s events provide even more evidence of our broken system. In a joint statement last week, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham spoke out against any excuses or delays by saying, “In fact the opposite is true: Immigration reform will strengthen our nation’s security by helping us identify exactly who has entered our country and who has left – a basic function of government that our broken immigration system is incapable of accomplishing today.”[5]

The most profound damage often wrought from acts of terror is not necessarily the destruction itself, but the aftermath of self-destructive division among Americans. We have seen what happened to our country after 9/11. After the dust of resiliency and resolve settled, more hate crimes and violence resurfaced. Our nation collectively retreated into our homes for fear of “the other “next door. We must not let immigration reform become another casualty of our own paralyzing insularity. We must not let terror win.