Written by Rachel Pierce, Administrative Assistant
The media has been shining a spotlight on the refugee situation in the United States this past year, a lot of confusion and mistrust of refugees and the resettlement process has come from many sides, both locally and on a national level. The heart and mission of Mission Adelante is, "To make disciples by serving, sharing life, and sharing Jesus with people from other places." Loving people from other places is in our DNA. So when given an opportunity to share the truth about the refugee situation, Mission Adelante will do its best to advocate for our refugee friends.
Those of us who live and serve in the Kansas City, Kansas community have a unique opportunity to say hello, share a smile, and shop for groceries at the local market with a variety of people from displaced countries. Countries like Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria; and many African countries like, Congo, Somalia, and Ethiopia. We have the honor of sharing coffee or tea with them in their homes; learning about them, their customs and culture, to hear their stories, hold their babies, and to learn how to make food from their homeland. We are privileged to cry with them when they mourn, and to laugh with them when they rejoice. We have a small glimpse of what life can be like for them. When we hear about the fear and apprehension that others have about our refugee friends, it saddens us. We want to support them, to stand with them, we want to help others understand them and the uniqueness they bring to our country and to our community.
The next four weeks we would like to share some facts and experiences about refugees that are resettled in the United States.
The first misunderstanding about the refugee is this: "They want to leave their home country."
The truth about the refugee is this: "They are forced to leave their country because of war or persecution."
According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC),
"Refugees leave their country because they have no other choice. They fear for their lives and those of their families when their governments will not or cannot protect them from war, sectarian conflict and serious human-rights abuses. Often they must leave their homes without notice, must travel with few belongings or none at all, and face perilous journeys involving great hardship. They risk their lives to cross borders, knowing they will be unable to return home until conditions improve, which can take decades. In 2015, 134,044 refugees submitted applications to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). Of that number, 25 percent were survivors of torture and other types of violence, and another 34 percent were in desperate need of physical or legal protection."
Also from the International Rescue Committee (IRC):
"They are men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and political upheaval. They are uprooted with little warning, enduring great hardship during their flight. They become refugees when they cross borders and seek safety in another country. They are displaced when they are forced to flee their homes, but remain within the borders of their native country. The 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as amended by its 1967 protocol defines a refugee as a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country... The United States will not recognize persons who have participated in war crimes and violations of humanitarian and human rights law, including the crime of terrorism, as refugees. They are specifically excluded from the protection accorded to refugees."
Many of our staff and volunteers have heard stories from our refugee friends, they have seen the wounds; both physical and emotional. We have shared life and served alongside them, we do not fear them; because we know that there is so much that we can learn from each other. We want our readers and supporters to become aware and educated about refugees, to seek the truth and share it with others; it is a passion of ours at Mission Adelante to Welcome the Stranger. More importantly Jesus commands us to welcome the stranger, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in," Matthew 25:35 (NIV) Together we can all stand with refugees for better understanding and representation.