“Refugee Resettlement: Faith Communities Making A Difference,” a CBS Television religion special about refugees who resettle in the United States, will be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 25 on the CBS Television Network.
John P. Blessington is the executive producer and Liz Kineke is the producer of the special is produced in cooperation with the National Council of Churches ― including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ― and a consortium of Roman Catholic organizations, The Islamic Society of North America, The Union of Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that in 2010 more than 43 million people were forcibly displaced by conflicts. Many seek sanctuary in neighboring countries, living in cities or refugee camps until it is safe to return home.
Those fleeing persecution can apply to live elsewhere in the world, but must undergo an extensive screening process and prove they are living with a well-founded fear of persecution. Only one-half of one percent of those who apply will be resettled in a new country.
The United States currently admits 70,000 refugees annually. Many of these are assisted by national faith-based humanitarian agencies like Church World Service (CWS) ― which counts among its partners the PC(USA). Since 1946, CWS has assisted in the resettlement of 500,000 refugees throughout the U.S.
“Refugee Resettlement: Faith Communities Making A Difference” interviews Erol Kekic, director of immigration and refugee program for CWS, as well as Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s regional representative in New York, who speak about the issue.
One CWS-sponsored refugee featured on the program is Hlwan Kip Tlem, an ethnic Chin from Burma, who came to live in Indianapolis four years ago and knew only a few words of English. She recently graduated from Southport High School and won a fully-paid four year scholarship to the University of Evansville. She talks about her experience adjusting to a new life in a new land.
Since it was founded, CWS has worked with local affiliates across the country securing sponsors from the local faith community. One of their affiliates featured on the program is the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC), which has resettled refugees in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area since 1985. Rachele King, director of MCC Refugee Services, talks about their ongoing work and how this interfaith organization plays a vital role in providing refugees a sense of community.
Last year MCC created the “Taking Root” program, which pairs Christian and Muslim volunteers to co-sponsor a new refugee who has no ties to friends or family in the U.S. “There are other methodologies but this one helps us bring people together in a really deep way…they really get to know each other over four months of working together,” MCC’s Gayle Anderson tells CBS.
“There’s simply no solution in resettlement alone,” CWS’ Kekic tells CBS. “Resettlement needs to be seen as a part of the solution, not the only solution, that we can offer the complex humanitarian emergencies such as the one in Somalia and the Horn of Africa at large.”