Over the past two weeks, many congregations throughout the United States have vocalized their deep lament in response what has been called “the biggest refugee crisis since World War II” as nearly 4 million Syrian refugees have fled their country over the past few years.
The Northern Illinois Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) has worked to provide three Syrian families with legal representation for their refugee status claims. This is out of a national total of 1,500 refugees that have come from Syria to the U.S.
One of the refugees that JFON is continuing to help is a woman we will call “Frida.” NIJFON recently took Frida on as a client and will be working with her application as a refugee.
A week ago, JFON attorney, Jenny Ansay contacted JFON board members through Facebook to ask them for help locating a place for Frida to stay. Frida had just become a JFON client, and the Syrian Community Network that had been supplying some of her needs could no longer find housing for her.
Responding to this call, the Rev. Chris Walters, a JFON board member and pastor at Plainfield First UMC, contacted a United Methodist ministry that houses immigrants like Frida. Rev. Walters found out that many landlords were not able to provide a place for her because she did not have a Social Security number or other identification. The same is true for many refugees seeking help in the U.S.
JFON’s work of providing legal assistance connects volunteers through their clinics in three locations throughout this area. The in-depth legal help they provide goes beyond what pro-bono or other legal services can offer.
As the Board chair, the Rev. Paula Cripps Vallejo has stated, “JFON pledges to continue to respond as we are able to Syrian refugees, as well as continuing our work to transform the world for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.”
Of the nearly 4 million Syrian refugees, only 1,500 have been admitted so far to the United States. Many would like to see the number increased substantially. Last week, President Obama increased the number that will be able to come to 10,000. However, it will take about 12-24 months for many persons to be processed before they will start arriving. This is a good time for congregations to plan how they can help.
As you pray for those refugees from Syria, keep in mind that over 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America came to the U.S. last year. Refugees come from many places, and these ways to help apply to all. Our invitation is to change ourselves that we can better listen and respond.
Many ways you can help:
- Open a heart to pray for refugees from Syria and many other locations. Read Bishop Sally Dyck’s prayer for the refugee children.
- House one of the few refugee families that might be able to make it to the U.S. Contact, Refugee One, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Conference has multi-decade relationship working with Refugee One. A training will take place on November 14 in Park Ridge, IL for congregations who wish to be involved.
- Join the Syrian Community Network on Facebook to watch for notices, such as interreligious candlelight vigils.
Donate Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450 will help migrants, such as those in Sicily, and other survivors of crisis or disaster to meet their essential needs. UMCOR is partnering with a local organization to provide emergency food vouchers to new arrivals in Sicily.
- Sign a petition to increase the number of refugees from Syria. Although the actual number admitted is unlikely to go much higher, this symbolic action shows our care.
- Volunteer The best way refugees become self-sufficient and acclimate to a new culture is through the help of mentors. Volunteers make weekly home visits to practice English, play games, show refugees how to ride public transit, and be supportive as a teacher, advocate and friend. For more information about volunteer opportunities, click here.