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Answering the refugee disaster as a matter of religion

(RNS) — Because the battle in Ukraine continues, sending refugees on an exodus into the West, the variety of folks worldwide who’ve been uprooted and compelled from their properties by battle and disasters has surpassed 100 million, in accordance with the United Nations.

Religion-based businesses are amongst these on the entrance strains of those emergencies, offering sensible and psychological assist, each to those that stay displaced inside their very own international locations and people who flee throughout borders into neighboring nations.

Confronted with the unprecedented refugee disaster, our three organizations — Islamic Aid Worldwide, the Lutheran World Federation and HIAS, a global Jewish humanitarian group that gives essential assist to refugees — are strengthening their cooperation to offer a greater, extra coordinated and efficient response. These organizations have many years of expertise serving refugees and host communities in different places, particularly in growing international locations the place the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees are positioned.


RELATED: While focusing on Ukraine, don’t forget the rest of the world


As a capstone to our partnership, and to mark World Refugee Day, the three organizations co-hosted a global convention in Geneva on June 20 and 21, with the intention of bettering our understanding of the work that’s being achieved by native religion teams all over the world in implementing the International Compact on Refugees. It additionally tackled the query of the way to assist these teams of their work.

Gillian Triggs, assistant excessive commissioner for defense on the Workplace of the U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees, opened the convention with us, and senior employees from UNHCR’s regional bureaus and gender, little one safety, partnerships and peacebuilding consultants co-facilitated some classes. Their participation was very important, and we had been happy to listen to concrete commitments from UNHCR to persevering with this partnership, particularly to rising their religion literacy.

The convention examined the function faith performs in displacement of populations from their properties. Variations between religion teams or inside a religion group are sometimes a significant purpose refugees flee, taking little with them however that religion custom. Many depend on these religion traditions to deal with the trauma of flight and to rebuild group and their lives in exile.

Religion teams are sometimes the primary responders, and are additionally recurrently the final responders. They’re on the scene of upheavals earlier than worldwide teams arrive, and keep lengthy after the funding for worldwide businesses has run out. Given this actuality, a coordinated response from folks of religion is extra pressing than ever.

Particularly, religion teams may help combine refugees and asylum-seekers into their new contexts utilizing our networks, affect and ethical authority to seek out livelihoods for the displaced and to advertise understanding and battle xenophobia within the host nation. Religion teams ought to look to deepen their partnerships and their connections with world humanitarian and growth businesses.

On the convention we lifted up some key fashions for such networks. By way of an initiative referred to as Symbols of Hope, the Lutheran World Federation helps member church buildings in African international locations to offer pastoral and psychosocial take care of returnees, together with abilities coaching and livelihoods assist.

An initiative by Interfaith Girls in Uganda, the nation that’s host to the most important variety of refugees in Africa, helps to develop instructional instruments for younger refugees and members of host communities to advertise coexistence and forestall battle over scarce sources.

In response to the battle in Ukraine, HIAS is increasing its Welcome Circle network of synagogues and local people teams that tackle the duty of resettling refugees of their communities, an initiative launched to resettle evacuees from Afghanistan.

Folks evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, wait to board a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles Worldwide Airport, in Chantilly, Virginia, on Aug. 25, 2021. (AP Picture/Jose Luis Magana)

Providing shelter and a welcome to these most in want is greater than only a skilled obligation for members of those religiously motivated organizations: It’s a commandment written of their spiritual texts that continues to encourage phrases and actions. 

“I used to be hungry and also you gave me one thing to eat, I used to be thirsty and also you gave me one thing to drink, I used to be a stranger and also you invited me in,” Jesus tells his listeners in St. Matthew’s Gospel. The Torah instructs Jews 36 instances to take care of the stranger — way over it instructions them to watch the Sabbath or another regulation — comparable to within the E-book of Exodus: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you understand the sentiments of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers within the land of Egypt.”

Equally, the Quran calls on Muslims to be protectors and helpers to “these oppressed males, ladies and kids who cry out ‘Lord, rescue us from this city the place persons are oppressors!’” One other verse reads, “In the event that they search assist from you towards persecution, it’s your responsibility to help them.” 

It is a difficult job as we witness the size of the disaster unfolding in Ukraine and the continued struggling of people that have fled from battle and oppression in Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia and elsewhere. We urge all folks of goodwill to hope for peace, contemplate volunteering and donate to refugee reduction efforts.


RELATED: Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine program is a start, faith-based refugee agencies say


As we mirror on the timeless questions “Who’s my neighbor?” and “What can I do to assist?,” we pray you’ll be a part of us in your communities of faith-inspired welcome by taking motion for a extra empathetic, beneficiant and open-armed coverage to all refugees, irrespective of the place they’re from and what their religion is.

(Waseem Ahmad is CEO of Islamic Aid Worldwide. The Rev. Anne Burghardt is basic secretary, Lutheran World Federation. Mark Hetfield is CEO of HIAS. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.) 

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