6 Things You and Your Church Can Do to Help Refugees
Regardless of what your political opinions may be on President Trump’s immigration ban, it is our duty as Christians to reach out to those in need. Galatians 6:2 says that we should carry each other’s burdens to make the loads easier to bear. Philippians 2:4 says that we should not look only to our own interests, but that we should also look to the interests of others. Romans 12:13 and Luke 3:10-11 both say for us to share with those in need and practice hospitality. Matthew 25:35-45 shows us a picture of a time after Christ comes back for his church, when he will separate the “sheep from the goats.” He will welcome the sheep into the Kingdom of Heaven and he will tell the goats to depart from him because he was hungry, thirsty, sick, and in need and they did not help him. They will cry to him, “but Lord, when did we see you [hungry, thirsty, or sick]?” He will say, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” When we help the “least of these” we are exemplifying Christ.
At the time I’m writing this, the ban has been halted and deemed unconstitutional, so for now it is not in effect. However, President Trump is currently working on a new ban. So, I’m hoping I can give you some practical ways to help refugees whether or not some kind of ban is enacted by the time you read this.
1. First and foremost, educate yourself
Do you know what the difference is between an immigrant and a refugee? Do you know what it takes to claim refugee status? What do you know about the process it takes to become a refugee or a citizen? What organizations exist to help refugees and how can you contact them and get involved?
These are important questions, and if you are going to be a Christian citizen of the world then they are questions you need to know the answers to. For example, a refugee is different from an immigrant in that a refugee has nowhere else to go. Refugees are fleeing persecution in fear for their lives. There is an intense process to claim refugee status and most people who apply are turned down. For those wishing to become refugees and come to the US, they must first be referred by the UN Refugee Agency, which is a vigorous process in and of itself. Then, if you fit all the criteria for the UN, there’s a whole new list of steps to follow to be a refugee in the US.
If you’re really interested in learning more, here is a link to the full text of President Trump’s immigration ban, (if you don’t want to read the full text, here is a pretty accurate summary) as well as a refugee fact sheet that, while slightly dated, is still a good source for quick information. Knowledge is the most important resource we have. We should utilize it.
2. Offer a citizenship course
One thing churches can do is offer courses in citizenship for people who are already in our country and are interested in becoming full citizens. It’s a difficult and lengthy process. There are several websites that have course materials to study, as well as curriculum to go through. Green card holders are immigrants who have not yet fulfilled the requirements to become a citizen. While it might be nice not to have to pay the same taxes that American citizens do, green card holders also do not reap all of the benefits of citizenship. Churches can show their love and support for their diverse communities by offering courses for citizenship.
3. Get involved with a local charity
Most areas have charitable organizations that are doing all they can to help refugees. I live in Northwest Arkansas and we have an organization called Canopy NWA that offers several opportunities for individuals and organizations to get involved in helping refugees. If you want to find an organization in your area that you or your church can get involved in, just Google it. Most areas have something in place to help. Some organizations are looking for families to sponsor refugees. Others collect and send care packages to refugee camps. Canopy NWA has an option to co-sponsor a family, which is an opportunity to help if you aren’t willing to be a sponsor family. Do a quick Internet search, figure out what organizations are in your area, give them a call, and ask what they need.
4. Support global refugee resettlement agencies and other groups committed to helping refugees overseas
There are a TON of different organizations who are very involved in helping refugees all over the world. There are literally endless ways in which you or your church can help, whether you want to take an active role or gather money for a donation. Here is a list of various organizations committed to helping and/or resettling refugees as well as a blurb from their websites about who they are and what they stand for.
- #Greateras1 - “A global homebase for refugee solidarity.”
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service - “Witnessing to God’s love for all people, we stand with and advocate for immigrants and refugees.”
- Catholic Relief Services - “Putting our faith into action to help the world’s poorest create lasting change.”
- World Relief - “With initiatives that focus on disaster response, health and child development, refugee and immigration services, economic development and peacebuilding, we work holistically with the local church to stand for the sick, the widowed, the orphaned, the alienated, the displaced, the devastated, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.”
- Lutheran World Relief - “Affirming God’s love for all people, we work with Lutherans and partners around the world to end poverty, injustice, and human suffering.”
- Church World Services - “CWS has worked for seven decades with one goal: building a world where there is enough for all. We affirm the power of individuals and communities to take ownership of their future. We meet them right where they are, helping them create solutions they can maintain – and build on. That means a refugee family who is able to start a new life. Or someone rebuilding after disaster finds safety with dignity.”
- Preemptive Love Coalition - “Yes, we all have our own politics. Yes, we have our own religion. Love anyway. Step out across enemy lines and embrace conflict rather than run.”
- Questscope - “Questscope is an innovative organization that works with individuals, communities, local organizations and international partners to produce social, educational, and entrepreneurial opportunities for marginalized youth.”
- World Vision - “Because Jesus is alive in the hardest places to be a child. We are a global Christian humanitarian organization. We partner with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.”
- Syrian-American Medical Society - “The SAMS Foundation is a non-profit, non-political, medical and humanitarian relief organization that is working on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria, in neighboring countries, and beyond to alleviate suffering and save lives. . .SAMS organizes medical missions, provides professional and educational trainings to Syrian physicians, and delivers medicine and medical supplies to hospitals and vulnerable families in Syria.”
- MAP International - “MAP International is a global Christian health and relief organization that partners with people living in conditions of poverty to save lives and develop healthier families and communities.”
5. Be an advocate
If you really want to help refugees, let your senators know. Here is a link from Catholic Relief Services that will walk you through writing a letter to congress asking them to allow Syrian refugees to take shelter here in the US. Here is a link that includes contact information for your state senators. Let them know what you think can be done to help. This is why we have elected representatives. Their job is to listen to us, the citizens.
As always, our strongest weapon is prayer. Pray for those in need. Pray that God would open our eyes and our hearts to the plight of those less fortunate. Pray that we will be given compassion and understanding. Pray for lawmakers and legislators to have wisdom, because the decisions they have to make are nearly impossible. Pray for President Trump; that he will exude love and compassion and that God will give him wisdom as the leader of the free world. Pray for God to ease the pain and the hurt of others. Most importantly, pray that he will open the hearts of all people to love and accept him.
Verses about helping the less fortunate:
If you know of any other organizations to get involved with or ways to help that I haven’t covered, please comment below.
Rachel-Claire Cockrell is a wife, a writer, and a high school English teacher. She is passionate about her students and does her best to exemplify the love of Christ to those kids who may not experience it anywhere else. She and her husband live in Arkansas. Follow her blog at http://rachelclaireunworthy.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook.