“Now think about it, especially right now, with apparent one-party rule in our government: Congress and the president could pass comprehensive immigration reform tomorrow if they wanted to,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told an audience of journalists meeting in Brooklyn on May 17. “They could bring nearly 12 million people out of the shadows — if they wanted to."
Pope Francis used his traditional Easter Sunday message to call the bombing of a refugee convoy near Aleppo, Syria, a “despicable attack”, and urged world leaders to “prevent the spread of conflicts” despite mounting tensions in Syria and North Korea.
In his Easter blessing, known as “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”), the pope urged the faithful to remember “all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine, and oppressive regimes.”
On April 15 a bomb attack struck buses that were transporting evacuees to safety from dangerous Syrian towns, reports BBC News. The attack killed 128 people, at least 68 of whom were children. The attack occurred at a transfer point for the evacuees.
As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and it is believed that Syrian rebels are not to blame, since some of their supporters were slated to evacuate from those same Syrian towns.
About 100 small groups of Syrian refugee activists held vigils Thursday evening to send a message to President Donald Trump that accepting refuges from Syria is at least as important as taking military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
World Relief, a global humanitarian organization and one of the main non-governmental organizations involved in the U.S. refugee resettlement program, announced today that the organization is laying off at least 140 employees and shuttering five local offices "as a direct result of the recent decision by the Trump Administration to dramatically reduce the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. throughout fiscal year 2017."
Safety is defined in the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus as abiding in God’s sense of justice —“not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.” Justice is love and love is behaving out of fairness to all — even those we see as a risk. We cannot expect to be in safety unless we treat others as we wish them to treat us.
More than 500 prominent evangelical Christians from every state have signed on to a letter addressed to President Trump and Vice President Pence, expressing their support for refugees. The “Still We Stand” petition, coordinated by World Relief, ran on Feb. 8 as a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post.
For the critically acclaimed film I Am Not Your Negro, filmmaker Raoul Peck drew upon an unfinished manuscript by writer James Baldwin and archival footage to fashion a searing narration about race in America. Opens in theaters in February. Magnolia Pictures
People of the Book
In Islam: What Non-Muslims Should Know, John Kaltner, a Rhodes College professor of Muslim-Christian relations, explains the basics of Islam, including frequently misunderstood practices. Originally released in 2003, this is a newly revised and expanded edition. Fortress Press
A Chicago church divided a financial windfall among its members, $500 each, telling them to use it to do good in God’s world. Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell tell the practical and inspiring lessons learned in Love Let Go: Radical Generosity for the Real World. Wm. B. Eerdmans
Mishwar Music , by The Homsies, is a three-song EP recorded in a refugee camp in Akkar, Lebanon, with a team of youth from Homs, Syria. It is available for download on Bandcamp. mishwar.org
“We were wrong.”
That’s how former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns summarized one of the most notorious episodes in the history of American refugee policy. In 1939, the MS Saint Louis carried 937 Jewish refugees towards our shores. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration denied the ship access to the U.S. and forced it to return to Europe. A third of the passengers died at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
1. The Man Who Saved 200 Syrian Refugees
Would that the world’s leaders felt the same: “I didn’t want to be 80 years old and know that I did nothing during the greatest humanitarian crisis of my time.”
2. Merry Christmas! The North Pole Is 50 Degrees Warmer Than Usual …
“No word from Santa on the forecast — or from President-elect Donald Trump, who is exercising his Twitter fingers while the Arctic melts.” XOXO, Grist.org
On Nov. 14 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked President-elect Donald Trump to implement policies geared toward honoring the humanity of immigrants and refugees, reports the Associated Press. The Roman Catholic bishops made their call to President-elect Trump at the beginning of their annual meeting in Baltimore.
World Relief, a Christian humanitarian group, resettled twice as many refugees to the U.S. in September as it had in August, an increase that foretells a more robust resettlement pace for the nation in general.
The evangelical nonprofit — one of the nine groups entrusted by the federal government to resettle refugees — found homes for approximately 1,400 people in September. That’s about 14 percent of the total refugees it resettled in the past year.
Pope Francis had lunch with 21 Syrian refugees at his private residence at the Vatican on Thursday, sending a powerful message to those in the West fervently opposed to welcoming those forced to flee the war-torn nation.
The Vatican’s chief media spokesman, Greg Burke, said the pope’s lunch guests included the Syrian families who returned to Italy with him from the Greek island of Lesbos aboard the papal plane after his official visit there in April.
The call went out for 600 volunteers to make care packages for Syrian refugees. Nearly 1,000 Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus answered it.
They formed assembly lines June 26 at the historic 69th Regiment Armory in lower Manhattan and stuffed toothpaste, nail clippers, soap, hand towels, condoms, washable menstrual pads, and other personal hygiene products into plastic bags to send to camps in Turkey for refugees of Syria’s civil war.
AFRAH ZOUHEIR FLEXES HER HAND as she purposefully stirs a pot of lemon juice, the fruity aroma filling the air as it rises to a boil.
“It needs to be hot in order to mix well with the sugars before it cools down and thickens,” she explains. “Then we bottle it and let it settle into a syrup.”
Zouheir has all of the looks of a professional chef. Her shoulder-length dark brown hair is tied back in a hairnet and her hands are coated in plastic gloves. She wears an apron over her sweatshirt, fanning the air, making sure that the lemon syrup drink she is making smells as it is supposed to; she appears undaunted about managing multiple pots simultaneously simmering over an open fire.
However, this is her first time working in a kitchen—at least professionally. In Mosul, Iraq, where she is from, she was a kindergarten teacher. But when the Islamic State invaded her home city in late 2013 and began targeting religious minorities, including Christians like Zouheir’s family, she grabbed her belongings and fled to Lebanon with her husband and four children. After a short stint in Beirut, the capital city, where rent is expensive and prejudice against refugees, among other factors, makes work hard to come by, she and her husband moved to Falougha, a mountain village where the air is fresh and, most important, the rent is cheap.
Pope Francis has called on European leaders not to turn their back on refugees and migrants despite the cultural and security challenges associated with the arrival of 1 million people this past year. Francis has made concern for migrants a centerpiece of his papacy, and on Jan. 11 in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See he again urged governments to “overcome the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon.”
The Jungle is an informal camp for refugees in Calais, France. It currently houses nearly 7,000 people who live under tarpaulins and in tents. They are fleeing war-torn areas, economic collapse, and climate change in countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Sudan, and Ethiopia. There is no drainage in the camp, so when it rains it is a mudbath, there are a few toilets and standpipes.
The journey to The Jungle camp has been dangerous and exhausting for most of them, and new arrivals have often worn out their shoes walking across Europe, some have lost so much weight they need a new size of clothing when they arrive. People arrive traumatized and afraid.
As Donald Trump continues to dominate media that try to balance a fascination for celebrities with a duty to check facts claimed by public figures of all stripes, some critics of the GOP presidential frontrunner may recall 18th century novelist Oliver Goldsmith’s line, “The loud voice that spoke the empty mind.” But a more apt thought may come from the classic 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” (airing on Turner cable networks dozens of times this week).
Remember Ralphie noticing the neighborhood bully?
It’s one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the 2016 election: Why are evangelicals, who historically have supported immigration reform and a path to citizenship for deeply felt religious and moral reasons, gravitating towards the two candidates who are most hostile to policy changes that would accommodate and integrate undocumented immigrants into American life?
Editor’s Note: A lot has happened this year, and there has been much to cover — much to lament, much to praise, and much to record into history. It has been our privilege and honor to write, edit, and read along with you. In no particular order, here are our 15 favorite stories of 2015.