LOUISVILLE

Saying it would send a “demoralizing and dangerous message to the world,” 26 national faith-based organizations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have sent letters to every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, urging them to allocate the necessary funds to support refugees in fiscal year 2016.

“As we grapple with increasingly heartbreaking and tragic reports of Syrian refugees seeking safety in the region and in Europe, coupled with the over 60 million people displaced worldwide, there is a clear imperative to respond,” the letter states. “The United States has a responsibility to act with historic leadership and compassion in response to the largest refugee crisis since World War II.”

The letter goes on to urge Congress to stay strong with those seeking safety and provide the initial assistance needed to build a new life.

“From administering life-saving assistance overseas to supporting local communities with the resettlement process, these funds are crucial in ensuring the success of the U.S. refugee resettlement program at all levels. When we invest in the lives and success of refugees, we strengthen both our position internationally and our local communities.”

The faith-based organizations are asking the subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies to allocate:

  • $2.42 billion for International Disaster Assistance, for those internally displaced, especially in Syria and Iraq
  • $3.6 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance, to assist refugees and provide initial integration assistance to resettle in the U.S.
  • $250 million for Emergency Refugee Migration Assistance, to help the U.S. respond quickly in an unanticipated crisis

The groups are asking the subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to allocate $2.44 billion for Refugee and Entrant Assistance to ensure local communities have the resources to help refugees integrate and rebuild their lives

The subcommittee for Homeland Security is being asked to allocate $49.6 million for the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to screen refugees for resettlement to the U.S.

“With these funds, Congress can ensure safe and expedient resettlement for those most at risk, aid individuals internationally displaced, prepare communities to welcome refugees and ensure their success,” the letter said.

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the PC (USA) Office of Public Witness, says “We must remember the words of Emma Lazarus etched on the welcome symbol of the Statue of Liberty, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.’ Our bible writes it another way, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ Hebrews 13:2.”

Nelson says the refusal to support Syrian refugees tells the world the United States makes value judgments about people based on the country they come from and their religion. He adds the refugees are fleeing the same kind of terror that unfolded on the streets of Paris and have been living through this for more than five years. Many have lost loved ones to persecution and violence and had everything they owned brutally taken from them.

The OPW is urging Presbyterians and other concerned citizens to tell their congressional representatives and governors that the movement to exclude Syrian refugees jeopardizes the United States’ moral leadership in the world and turning our backs on refugees would be a betrayal of our nation’s core values.

For more information on the church’s involvement with the crisis, you can check out the OPW Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PCUSAWashington/?fref=nf.