One area of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s (PDA) ministry that is not as well-known is our work with refugee and immigrant ministries. As the church we are called to "welcome the stranger." The scriptures are full of God's reminders to our spiritual forebears that they should welcome the stranger. Many who have extended hospitality know the joy and blessings which can come from walking with refugees. Increased inspiration and strength in our own spiritual journeys can come from opening ourselves to be empathetic and understanding of the struggles of refugees.
Part of the General Assembly mandate for PDA is “ … aid to refugees and displaced persons ...” PDA carries out this mandate through providing:
- Assistance to refugees resettling in the United States in partnership with Church World Service and Presbyterian congregations around the United States. For information about your congregation sponsoring or supporting refugee resettlement, contact the Church World Service affiliate office closest to you.
- Immigration counseling in partnership with the Office of Immigration Issues, located in the Office of the General Assembly.
- Assistance to those seeking asylum and alternatives to detention in partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
- Supporting and equipping local congregations and task forces in their ministries with asylum seekers and refugees, in collaboration with and through Presbyterian mid councils.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 40 million people around the world are uprooted from their homes and communities by persecution and armed conflict. All uprooted people have been forced to leave their homes — often abruptly, and usually unwillingly, because of persecution or oppression.
Refugees are those who flee across international borders for safety. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who are forced from their homes but remain uprooted within their own country.
The persecution or fear of persecution means it is not possible for refugees to return home. (Read the definition of a refugee from the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.) Many refugees stay in neighboring countries where they languish in refugee camps; a few will begin a new life in another country such as the United States. Just as we need pastoral care following a traumatic event in our lives, so do refugees.
If your congregation is willing to learn about sponsoring or supporting refugee resettlement, please contact the Church World Service affiliate office closest to you.
If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. —Isaiah 58:10 (NIV)
Immigration issues — Calling Presbyterians to make just immigration a reality, from the Office of Immigration, PC(USA) Office of the General Assembly; learn and find resources to help educate your congregation or community.
Minute for Mission — There's Power In One: Reaching Out To One Refugee Family.