Thursday, July 7, 2022
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Our Response Will Define Us: Welcoming and Caring For Refugees

Our Response Will Define Us: Welcoming and Caring For Refugees

Featurd Image | Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

Love Thy Neighbour

Not long after Christ’s triumphant ride into Jerusalem, a lawyer came to him with a question. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” the lawyer asked. Christ replied that he should love God with all his strength and soul. “And,” Christ continued, “the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Last year, as part of the project to rewrite the General Handbook, The Church of Jesus Christ included a new section on refugees. It reads “Many people have fled their homes seeking relief from violence, war, religious persecution, and life-threatening situations. As part of their responsibility to care for those in need, Church members offer their time, talents, and friendship to welcome refugees as members of their communities.”

At the time I am writing this, UNHCR estimates that there are 26.4 million refugees around the world, around half of whom are believed to be under the age of 18. Thousands of these refugees reside within the United States. Even now, more than 2 million people have fled Ukraine. They are our figurative and literal neighbors, and they need our help.

How To Help

Trisha Leimer is the Associate Director of Their Story is Our Story, an organization whose mission is to transform the way refugees are perceived and accepted by telling their stories. Leimer was a founding member of TSOS in 2015 and since then has worked with, shared the stories of, and helped to meet the needs of refugees all around the world.

When I sat down to talk with her, Leimer pointed out that so many of these refugees are leaving everything they know behind. They are stepping into worlds where everything about the culture, the language, and the customs are entirely different. They need help with finding housing, getting groceries, learning English, learning in schools, and so much more. There are of course organizations for this, but they need help. Leimer stated that some of these organizations are being swamped with the influx of refugees. The actions of even a few individuals who get involved could mean a world of difference.

So how do you get started? That can be the most challenging part, but there are opportunities and organizations that operate across the country and the world that can help you get started. Here is a list of resources that you can turn to, both to get educated about refugees and to learn how to help:

Their Story Is Our Story – Here you can find information on dozens of facets of refugees’ lives, including their stories and even education curriculums for schools to use.

International Rescue Committee – The IRC operates around the globe to help refugees. Here you can find more about them, attend events, and find ways that you can help out in your own community.

Catholic Community Services – Catholic Community Services run foster care and resettlement for refugees. Find out how you can volunteer with these processes and help integrate refugees into your community.

Welcome.US –  Here you can find volunteer opportunities in your local community, find ways to engage your business in helping refugees, or find other ways to show your support.

churchofjesuschrist.org/refugees – Here the Church has put together a great list of ideas and resources that you can turn to to get involved in helping refugees.

Our Response Will Help Define Us

At General Conference in April 2016, Elder Patrick Kearon spoke of the plight of refugees. “It is shocking to consider the numbers involved and to reflect on what this means in each individual life… We see many of them coming with only the clothes they are wearing and what they can carry in one small bag.” Elder Kearon reminded many Latter-day Saints of their own refugee heritage. “What if their story were my story?” he quoted Sister Linda Burton. “Their story is our story, not that many years ago.”

We have a divine mandate to help those in need even as we have been helped in so many ways. In the past few months, there has been a large influx of refugees from Afghanistan. It is possible that soon you might see refugees from Ukraine, moving into your neighborhoods, attending your children’s schools, shopping at your grocery stores. They are going to need help. You can step up and provide it. As you seek to fulfill that second greatest commandment, you, and those you serve will be blessed and changed for the better. “This moment does not define the refugees,” Elder Kearon said. “But our response will help define us.”

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