Home Christian News After 4 Years of Historic Lows, Faith-Based Refugee Resettlement Groups Start Rebuilding

After 4 Years of Historic Lows, Faith-Based Refugee Resettlement Groups Start Rebuilding

But once things start moving, agencies such as the USCCB and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service think they can turn things around relatively quickly. The USCCB’s refugee program operates through Catholic Charities sites that run various other initiatives for local communities, meaning their buildings remained open even in places where refugee efforts folded.

And it wouldn’t be the first time Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service grew to serve the needs of refugees. After the fall of Saigon in the waning days of the Vietnam War, LIRS transformed from a staff of four to a crisis response operation with a staff of hundreds, according to Vignarajah.

As soon as “the election results became clear,” the Lutheran organization and its colleagues “began working overnight, around the clock, to ensure the infrastructure domestically is rebuilt in order to continue to welcome the stranger and to resurrect a lifesaving program,” she said.

While anti-refugee sentiment is real, agency leaders also expressed optimism that faith-fueled enthusiasm for refugees — spurred in part, they contend, by opposition to Trump and his policies — could accelerate the program’s resurgence.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has been reengaging congregations that historically have been committed to refugee resettlement, viewing it “as a matter of faith,” Vignarajah said.

“They’ve been sitting on the sidelines, eagerly awaiting a return to this being a bipartisan program, a return to America exercising its global humanitarian leadership,” she said.

Hetfield, of HIAS, added, “I know the American Jewish community is really enthusiastic to start welcoming refugees again.

“We’ve had a lot more volunteers than we’ve had refugees in the last four years. It’ll be nice to be able to put them to good use and to reengage with these communities that want to welcome refugees.”

They already have allies within the government: After years at Church World Service, Smyers — who previously expressed concern about the “nearly impossible” task of rebuilding what has been lost over the past four years — began a new job this week as chief of staff at the U.S. government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Before Thursday’s announcement, Serweri said he was feeling optimistic.

Within a year of arriving in the U.S., he found a job as a case manager for Iris (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), an Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliate in Connecticut, and he and his wife welcomed their second child.

He has seen the impact the policies of the past four years have had on Iris and other agencies, as well as on the refugees they serve.

Serweri said he’d heard “good news” from Biden on the campaign trail and is happy that it seems the president plans to treat the refugee crisis as the humanitarian issue Serweri believes it to be — not the political issue it has become in recent years.

“Unfortunately it was overpoliticized, and it affected a lot of refugees,” he said.

He hopes his neighbors who see refugees in terms of politics will “just for one moment put themselves in the shoes of refugees,” he said. Get to know them, hear their stories, learn how they contribute to the U.S.

Understand the challenges that caused them to come to the country when, he said, “nobody and no one would like to voluntarily flee their country of origin. A country is like a mother.”

“This has nothing to do with politics,” Serweri said.

“It is a very American, sacred value.”

Article by Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins. This article originally appeared on ReligionNews.com