Voices for Change

Advocacy ministries of the ELCA want to share stories and your voices about public policies and relevant advocacy issues that are of interest to you.

Human Dignity: LIRS’s Work of Welcoming Refugees to the United States

Posted on June 15, 2011 by Advocacy Ministries of the ELCA

Guest blog posting by Eric Sigmon, director for advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. This posting highlights the human dignity issues with regards to welcoming refugees into the United States.

On June 20th, the United States will celebrate World Refugee Day to raise awareness about the estimated 15.2 million refugees around the world and to celebrate the wonderful contributions refugees provide to communities across the country.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), a nationally recognized organization based in Baltimore, MD, welcomes refugees and migrants on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LIRS partners with the federal government, local refugee resettlement partner organizations, and churches and volunteers to help refugees in the United States learn English, enroll their children in school, find jobs and become self-sufficient.  Since 1939, LIRS has welcomed over 372,000 refugees to the United States.

Here is a snapshot of the refugee populations LIRS currently assists:

Iraqis: LIRS has a long history of resettling Iraqi refugees, with a larger influx of arrivals in recent years. Many Iraqis have arrived to the United States through a special program to protect Iraqis who have been targeted as a result of their work and affiliation with the U.S. military.

Burmese: The Burmese are one of the largest and most diverse groups currently being resettled by LIRS. Since 1962 Burma has been under military rule. The oppression of minority ethnic groups has been brutal. Many Burmese refugees have lived in “temporary camps” for two decades or more. Many children and young people are born into these camps and do not know about life outside of these camps.

Bhutanese: Bhutanese refugees are mostly ethnic Nepalis from southern Bhutan, known as “Lhotsampas,” who have lived in camps in Nepal for more than 16 years. The Lhotsampas coexisted peacefully with the majority population, the Druk Buddhists, until the 1980s. Protests and clashes with the police culminated in the forced expulsion of Lhotsampas from the country in 1990.

Somalis: In 1990, after the civil war in Somalia, the Somali refugee crisis began and it continues today. Many Somali refugees have lived in camps in Kenya and Ethiopia for protracted periods with no durable solution available other than third country resettlement.

Eritreans: As a result of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war from 1998-2000, Eritrean refugees have sought protection in neighboring countries. Political tensions and increasing repression continue in Eritrea, with the targeting of independent evangelical groups. Most of the refugees LIRS currently serves practice Christianity or Islam.

LIRS also continues to serve refugees from Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and the former Soviet Union. In honor of World Refugee Day, please take time to pray, volunteer with a local refugee resettlement organization, or visit the LIRS website for further information:

LIRS Advocacy Page on Refugees

LIRS Work to Welcome Refugees

Frequently Asked Questions About Refugees

LIRS statement — Improving the Welcome for Refugees Resettled to the United States

LIRS statement — LIRS Supports Legislation to Provide Permanency to Liberian Migrants in the United States

LIRS statement — The Impact of Budget Proposals on Justice, Job Creation, Public Safety, and Civil Liberties

Prayers Still Needed for Sudan

Posted on June 8, 2011 by Advocacy Ministries of the ELCA

Sudanese woman with her son (Photo Credit: ELCA Washington Office)

Sudan has been plagued by internal conflict for nearly 40 years. A variety of complex factors, including race, ethnicity, religion and economic disparities fueled a 22-year conflict between the north and south and are also largely at the heart of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur that began in 2003.

Now South Sudan will be embarking on a new era. After a Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended this year, the people of Southern Sudan voted for independence from the rest of Sudan. On July 9, South Sudan will become an independent nation.

Recently, there have been reports of renewed violence in the contested area of Abyei. Abyei was to have its referendum to determine whether to be part of the North or South. However, the people in Abyei were not able to vote.

“Given the ongoing insecurity in Abyei, the Security Council believes that the security and prosperity of both parties would benefit from a continuing UN-mandated presence in Abyei after July 9, as well as from UN assistance for the parties’ management of their border after the independence of South Sudan. In this context, the Council urges the parties to reach agreement on a continuing UN-mandated presence.” (UN Security Council statement, June 3, 2011)

We invite you to pray with us as this ongoing violence continues to threaten humanitarian efforts and as the people of Sudan prepare for a new shift in political leadership. On every Friday from now until July 9, let’s give thanks to God and hope to the people of Sudan as they prepare for this significant step in securing peace for their country. These dates are June 10, June 17, June 24, July 1, and July 8. In the United States, we are called to pray at 11 a.m. (EDT), 10 a.m. (CDT), 9 a.m. (MDT), and 8 a.m. (PDT).

Here is a prayer from the Presbyterian Church (USA):

Our loving Heavenly Father,

We come before you to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance for South Sudan.

Lord, we know that bitterness and resentment are like toxic thorns in our soul, sapping our mental process, thought-life, will, motivation, and joy of our life.

Remind us that we will be the prisoners of our strongholds if we cannot forgive our brothers and sisters.

Help us to remember that forgiveness is the deliberate act of the will to pardon another individual or self whether we like it
or not.

Thank you for your word that we receive forgiveness in the same manner that we forgive others.

Help us to work out the torments of forgiveness with you alone our God and the other person, we are making the list of persons and situation causing troubles in South Sudan.

Intervene with the formation of the new Government and give us peace in South Sudan.

In Jesus Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

Aliamma George
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Mission Co-Worker