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Refugees Welcome

Posted on July 6, 2018 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

We Are Better Because of Them

Why refugees flee to the U.S. and what they might offer our nation have become topics debated everywhere from congressional halls to family dinner tables.  For answers, check out the speech Catholic Charities Director of Refugee Resettlement Kelly Agnew-Barajas shared at the Brooklyn Conservancy of Music World Refugee Day Festival 2018 .  This free public event filled with ethnic food, performances and cohosted by Catholic Charities on June 23rd celebrated New York’s diverse community.

By Kelly Agnew-Barajas

Catholic Charities NY Director of Refugee Resettlement

We Are Better Because of Them

We honor the refugees who have made their way to our communities here in the US, and here in New York. We are better because of them.

Because of their strength and courage in the face of oppression and persecution, our communities are stronger and braver.

Because of their resilience and ability to persevere despite so many painful challenges, we all are reaching deep and searching for ways to move forward and heal.

Displaced People, Despite Years of Brutality, Closed Out of U.S. Refugee Program

We also honor all of the refugees who are in the midst of their struggle to find peace and a safe home.

Whether the US labels what is happening in Central America as a “refugee crisis” or not, that does not change the fact that hundreds of thousands of families and children have fled for their lives in the face of relentless violence. So many have come together in outrage and grief to protest the cruel separation of parents and children at the border. Your voices raised together are so powerful.

We also recognize the prolonged refugee crisis throughout the globe.

Years of brutality in Syria have resulted in the largest forcibly displaced population in the world. Yet, the US Refugee Program has been largely closed to them.

Decades of insecurity and conflict in Afghanistan have scattered millions of Afghans the world over.

The situation in South Sudan is dire. Four million people have been uprooted from their homes and forced to flee.

In our own hemisphere, Venezuela’s economic turmoil and brutal regime have forced close to 2 million refugees to escape and seek refuge.

The images from Bangladesh of Rohingyan families fleeing Burma are seared into our collective memories.

What do we do with all of this desperation?

Do we throw up our hands and despair? No. We cannot, and should not.

More than ever now is the time to join together as members of a community interested in shoring up our collective humanity. We must support of our brothers and sisters in need. More than ever we need to stand on the side of compassion.

As New Yorkers, we are proud to stand up for refugees in the past, now and with a strong commitment to see that the policies of the current administration will not last.

Henri Nouwen could have been describing the approach that New Yorkers take to welcoming and integrating refugees when he said,

“Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free.”

We don’t often think of New York City as an empty space, but in fact in some ways, refugees here can start over and remake themselves here without fear. And that is a credit to the community we have built here.

This is probably the most challenging World Refugee Day of our lifetimes.

Let’s take a pledge to continue this work and to support refugees.

Say it with me: Refugees Welcome!

Photo credit:  Anne Saint-Pierre

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