United States: In Illinois, a church mobilizes to welcome Afghan refugees

Welcoming the Afghans who left their country after the withdrawal of American forces and the seizure of power by the Taliban is a major undertaking. A church in the Chicago, Illinois area is working hard to meet the needs of refugees.

Nathan White is the Director of External Engagement for Evangelical Christian Humanitarian NGO World Relief Chicagoland. In an interview with Religion News Service, he reported that the number of Afghans arriving in the United States who contact his NGO increased dramatically in early October.

While the US government plans to welcome 95 Afghans by September 000, he estimates that places of worship across the country will have a crucial role to play in the weeks and months to come and adds that churches in the region are ready to “welcome their neighbors”.

“To help someone achieve some stability when they first arrive in the United States and then have a place to truly thrive and a sense of belonging, it requires a broader community response. , and churches are the primary vehicle through which World Relief engages, ”continues Nathan White.

In order to receive 130 refugees that World Relief Chicagoland hopes to resettle, the organization turned to one of these partners, Immanuel Presbyterian Church located in Warrenville, Illinois.

Reverend George Garrison, senior pastor of Immanuel Church says caring for refugees is "part of the heart" of his church. The pastor adds that it is a teaching inspired by the commandments of God to Israel to be "sensitive to the traveler and to the wanderer among you, for this is what you were when you were in Egypt", a teaching that the we also find in the New Testament to describe the church, continues the American.

“We recognize that we are so blessed. We are in such a position of advantage here. And when people come and have nothing, we respond out of love and compassion, ”said George Garrison.

So, several church worshipers including Amy Treier, professor of political science at Evangelical Wheaton College, have donated their homes to help store refugee supplies.

In a bedroom in her apartment, she sorted and packed a number of basic items that a family might need to start their life over in a new country. “Welcome kits” which include sleeping materials, hangers, stamps, kitchen utensils and cleaning products.

For the professor of political science it is about a "tangible and practical way" of showing love to their next ones "coming from Afghanistan".

Some church members will offer classes to teach refugees English, while other members prepare to welcome the Afghans and help them settle.

Camille Westphal Perrier

Image: Trent Inness / Shutterstock.com
Kabul August 14, 2021 rescue flights to evacuate people from the airport.

Article originally published in October 2021.

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