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Jesus said…“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” 

Matthew 25:35

As I write this, the Refugee Resettlement Committee of the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford (the FISH church) and the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, working together, is giving the green light to IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) to place a refugee family with us. When IRIS selects a family to place with us we will have two weeks’ notice before their arrival.

Much planning has gone into this effort. A Co-sponsorship self-assessment was completed and filed with IRIS which examined our ability to host a family in Stamford. That assessment included: housing, public transportation, access to English as a Second Language classes, schools, healthcare, interpreters, shopping for groceries, early childhood education and childcare, employment, worship, and cultural resources. Our greatest need at the moment is for interpreters. Martha Taylor-Nobile from the FISH Church is the chair of our combined committee. Members of our church who are part of the process include: Scott Beyer (Clerk of Session), Glenn Mierendorf (Chair of Mission & Outreach), Lynn Quinn, Bob Caird, Elaine Foster, John Lanaway, Mary Thies, Bob & Belinda Reany, Laurel Carlson, Sarah Robinson, Ruth Laird, Mavis & Solomon Asare, Wendy Stahl, Kristen Rodgers, Peg Bull, Elsbeth Johnston, Martha Ventner, and Kane White. Others are welcome to join!

The world is in the midst of a refugee crisis. Civil war, persecution, and genocide have displaced 60 million souls from their homes. In this time when the world’s sorrows are great, it is the desire of many Presbyterians to extend welcome to those seeking safety. This call to choose welcome is our faithful and compassionate remembrance that we too once “were strangers in the land of Egypt.”[1] This call comes from our history of actively assisting in refugee resettlement. We know, firsthand, that by choosing welcome, we have entertained angels.[2]

Our nation, for decades, has chosen hope and welcome for those fleeing war and persecution. Since 1975, more than three million refugees have found safety and security within our nation’s borders. Right now 11 million Syrians cannot go to school, tend to their land, or raise their children in the place they know as home. They cannot do these things because they, themselves, have been terrorized for far too long by numerous factions, including their own government.

Do we choose to abandon our plan to protect these Syrians because the people who have been threatening them are now threatening the West as well? ISIS has taken lives; they have taken our sense of security. Do we now hand over our hope and compassion to them?

Obviously, we need to move forward with a disciplined response, expediting security checks such as those employed by the U.S. refugee admission program. To refuse certain persons who are fleeing terror and persecution because they are “Syrian” or of some other particular ethnic group is unjust and may be illegal under U.S. law. We can be disciplined and, at the same time, led to love beyond our own limited, fearful vision.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples hid in fear. They locked the doors but God had another plan. Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” [3] We were not meant to hide. We were meant to walk out in hope and compassion. The way to end terror is to prove that those who demonize us are wrong. We are not a heartless secular culture. We must witness to the Gospel with generous hospitality. To hide in fear is a mistake. Fear is the ammunition of terror. Hope is the best defense.

[1] Deut. 10:19, NRSV.
[2] Heb. 13: 1–2, NRSV.

Khobani, Syria[3] John 20:21, NRSV



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