Below are some frequently asked questions we receive. Please click the questions to open the answer.
WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A "REFUGEE"?
Often times there is widespread confusion on what exactly a refugee is, which is why it's often a helpful starting point to define terms:
Refugee: an individual who has fled his or her country of origin because of a credible fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, political opinion, national origin, or social group. This is a legal term the United Nations determines for individuals that meet certain requirements. It is also often used informally by the public.
Internally Displaced Person: a person who has fled his or her home but stays within the boundaries of their country.
Asylum Seekers: a person who flees his or her country for the same reasons as a refugee but does not prequalify their claim. They file a claim for asylum after they arrive in their destination country.
Undocumented Immigrants: those who live in another country without legal authorization.
Immigrants: those who choose to leave their country due to poverty, natural disaster, general violence, or opportunity.
WHY IS THE REFUGEE CRISIS AN ISSUE?
The greatest humanitarian concern of our time is the global refugee crisis. More than 65 million individuals have been forced to flee their homes because of war, persecution, and violence. Over 22 million individuals have fled the borders of their country as refugees, many of whom are living in refugee camps. The United Nations reports that the current average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years. In addition to refugees, there are 40.8 million internally displaces person, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.
While these individuals and families are in desperate need of safe communities and countries that will welcome them and help them rebuild their lives, only 189,300 refugees were resettled across the world in 2016. That is less than 1% of the refugees the United Nations reports to be need of this critical life-line.
The United States has often been a global leader in refugee resettlement, yet in 2017 we resettled only .002% of the world’s refugees. In reality, the developing world hosts and provides asylum to the vast majority of the world’s refugees.
The ultimate hope is people who were forced to flee will be able to return home when the conflict is peacefully resolved. However, until these women, men, and children can return home, there remains a colossal crisis that demands the attention of the body of Christ. The suffering and struggles of refugees—Christians, Muslims, or Buddhist—ought to be met with the sacrificial love and compassion of Christ.
At World Relief we aim to partner with the local church in a two-pronged approach. First, we focus our efforts on addressing the root causes, so that individuals would not be forced to flee. World Relief empowers local churches in the Middle East who are responding to human need with tremendous generosity and self-sacrificial love. However, given the desperation that at present has left many with no option but to flee, governments in North America and Europe can help by accepting refugees (currently less than 1% of refugees are resettled each year). So, second, World Relief resettles refugees in the United States helping them find housing, learn English, transition to life in America, and find a job.
WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD TREAT REFUGEES/IMMIGRANTS?
Scripture has much to say about how to treat refugees and migrants. Sadly, the voice of Scripture on this topic is frequently drowned out by political debates and agendas. But for faith communities that believe the Bible is God's word, the voice of Scripture takes a special place that should guide our convictions and actions. It is our conviction, for the reasons below, that Scripture compels us to loving serve our refuge and migrant neighbors.
The Hebrew word ger—translated into English as foreigner, sojourner, stranger, refugee, or immigrant appears 92 times in the Old Testament. In many of these occurrences we find God's special concern for immigrants and a close identification between God's people and outsiders in their midst. For instance, Leviticus 19:33 says, "When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrants who lives with you must be treated as if they were on of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt."
In addition to Israel as a whole, many biblical heroes were refugees and/or immigrants:
Moses fled from Egypt to Midian because Pharaoh sought to kill him (Genesis 27:42-44)
David had to seek asylum under King Achish because King Saul was trying to kill him. (Exodus 2:15)
Elijah fled persecution from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and was suffering so much he prayed that he might die. (1 Kings 19:1-4)
Daniel was forcefully carried from his homeland and forced to resettle in Babylon.
Ruth the Moabite left her homeland, culture, and religion for the unknown land, people, and God of her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi. Displaced, grieving, and vulnerable, Ruth survived on the kindness of her adopted people, eventually remarried, and became a full member of the community.
Jesus, a descendant of Ruth (Matthew 1:5), began his life as a sojourner, journeying in the womb to Bethlehem by political decree, and then fleeing to Egypt with his parents after his birth to escape political violence (Luke 2:1-7)
Clearly Jesus understood the plight of refugees in a deep and personal way. He shared their experience in his life on earth. He taught his followers to love the marginalized and displaced. He said to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27) Then in an attempt to identify who a qualifies as a neighbor he makes it clear that our neighbors include anyone who is in need, suffering and is not just those who share our ethnicity, religion, or zip code. Jesus told a story to explain that his followers should even loving serve hates "Samaritans", the despised foreigners in the first century. Likewise, Jesus desires for his church today to demonstrated a sacrificial love for foreigners in their midst.
By our own resources loving strangers from distant lands and different cultures, may seem difficult and even overwhelming. But Scripture makes clear that our capacity to love others is a direct result of the love we received from God. When we received the lavishing and overwhelming love God has for us through Christ, we can't help but be conduits of God's love to others, especially to those on the margins.
Furthermore, when we experience God's vision of who people are it also compels us to love them. Since all people are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God (Psalm 139:14), created in his image and likeness (Genesis 1-2) they have intrinsic value and worth! All people—every single refugee—was created and brought into existence by the Almighty God. Moreover, God did not just express his love for them in creation, he expressed the depth of his love for them on Calvary. Jesus was died for all people and that includes the refugees and immigrants in our midst. They are infinitely loved by God. They are matter to him so much that he died for them and thus they should matter to us.
In Philippians 2:3, Paul says, "In humility value others above yourselves, [do not merely look] to your own interests but each of your to the interest of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." Then Paul goes on to express how Christ made himself a servant by sacrificially dying for humans.
What does it mean for us to have that same mindset in our relationship with refugees in our community?
At the very least in means striving to live into our calling to express a radical cross-like love, which is the hallmark of Christ followers (John 13:35). As the church lives into the Great Commandments to love God and love others, the kingdom of God will advance and the gospel message will take root. Loving our neighbors, in particular our refugee and immigrant neighbors, is essential to Christian mission. It testifies to the gospel we believe and the God we love. When we love our refugee neighbor in word and deed, we testify to the one true King, as Solomon told Israel several thousand years ago with his hands raised to heaven:
Listen also to the immigrant who isn’t from your people Israel but who comes from a distant country because of your reputation—because they will hear of your great reputation, your great power, and your outstretched arm. When the immigrant comes and prays toward this temple, then listen from heaven, where you live, and do everything the immigrant asks. Do this so that all the people of the earth may know your reputation and revere you, as your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I have built bears your name. (1 Kings 8:22, 41-43)
-Immigrants & Refugees in the Bible Paper
-What does the Bible Have to Say About Immigrants and Refugees Paper
HOW CAN THE CHURCH RESPOND TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS?
Like many of today's major crisis', the refugee crisis, can seem overwhelming. Where does one even begin? How can we possibly hope to make a difference?
World Relief was founded on the conviction that the church can make a difference. When we join together, following God's lead we are able to address the crisis' and suffering of our day with the power, love, and compassion of Christ. For the past 70 years, World Relief has touched the lives of millions of people in over 100 countries. We have done this primarily through the sacrifice and kingdom work of local churches and you can be one of ten following ways:
Run a "Refugee Sunday" at your church
Spotlight and for local refugees during a service
Create a refugee ministry team within your church
Run a "Welcome Kit Drive" to provide essential supplies to incoming refugees
Create a Good Neighbor Team within your church to help one family for six months
Encourage individuals within your church to become volunteers
Send a four of 5-10 people to attend our New Neighbors Contemplative Walk
Run a 6-week small group series on the book Seeking Refuge
Attend an upcoming World Relief event
Become a committed financial contributor to World Relief Sacramento
Clearly, there are many ways that your church can make a difference by serving the most vulnerable within our community.
HOW CAN PEOPLE BE SURE THAT "REFUGEES" ARE NOT ACTUALLY TERRORISTS?
There is an enormous difference between the situation of asylum-seekers we are seeing arrive on European borders (approximately 900,000 in 2015), and the much smaller number of refugees who are admitted to the U.S. (approximately 80,000 in 2016).
Refugees in the U.S. are pre-approved and invited by the State Department before arriving in the U.S. They undergo a thorough, multilayered vetting process that can often take multiple years. Those arriving in Europe, to the contrary, have not necessarily been determined to be refugees: they seek asylum—a claim to meet the definition of a refugee, having fled persecution—when they arrive at the border or shore, but their asylum claims are adjudicated and their backgrounds vetted for security risks only after their arrival.
The U.S. refugee security screening process starts overseas and involves the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security and Defense as well as the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center. The process generally requires at least 18 months but often extends much longer. It includes in-person interviews, biometric background checks, and interviews with third-persons who have information about the individual being considered for resettlement to the U.S. Only a fraction of one percent of the world’s refugees are admitted for resettlement to the U.S. in any given year. Priority is given to those who are deemed to be most vulnerable, including a majority who are women or children. The vetting process for those being considered for refugee status is more stringent than that of any other category of visitor or immigrant to the U.S.
Like most European countries, the U.S. also has a process for requesting asylum for those who reach its borders. Asylum seekers must demonstrate they have a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or their political opinion just like a refugee whose case is adjudicated overseas. They must also clear background and security checks before their cases can be approved. In the interim, they are not eligible for public benefits and, for the first several months, for employment authorization, which makes it very challenging to sustain oneself as an asylum seeker. In cases where the U.S. government has a concern that the asylum seeker may present a security threat, they can also be held in a detention facility until their case is adjudicated.
The U.S. system of refugee resettlement has a long history of successfully integrating refugees. Since the program began in 1975, the U.S. has welcomed more than 3 million refugees. Refugees are grateful to their adopted country for receiving them. Those selected for resettlement are the victims of governmental persecution and/or terrorism. They tend to be the fiercest critics of extremist groups and tyrannical governments having suffered at their hands. Throughout this history, there has never been a terrorist attack successfully perpetrated on U.S. soil by an individual who had been admitted to the country as a refugee. In the exceptionally rare cases where someone admitted as a refugee has been suspected of ties to groups interested in harming the U.S., it has often been other former refugees from within the same ethnic community who have alerted law enforcement.
*Hyperlink Additional Resources
-Fact Sheet: Refugees and Security Concerns
-Fact Sheet: Refugees, Immigrants & the Economy
ARE REFUGEES CONSIDERED AN ECONOMIC BURDEN TO COUNTRIES THAT ARE RESETTELING THEM?
Like other immigrants, the arrival of refugees can provide a significant economic opportunity for the countries that receive them. While most countries provide refugees with a limited amount of basic assistance when they first arrive, almost all refugees are eager to work, be self-sufficient, and become productive members of their new community.
A growing national economy depends upon a growing population. Refugees can play crucial roles in an economy as workers, consumers, taxpayers and entrepreneurs. Multiple studies on the economic impacts of refugee resettlement on particular local communities have found that, while there are some costs up front, within a few years of arrival the net economic impact of refugees becomes positive and then continues to grow.
CAN WE JUST HELP "CHRISTIAN REFUGEES"?
Many of the refugees in the world today are Christians. Welcoming refugees is an important way for believers to stand with the persecuted Church—and efforts to restrict refugee resettlement could negatively impact many fellow Christ-followers who have been forced to flee.
In 2015, among the approximately 70,000 refugees who were resettled into the U.S., there were more Christians (more than 45% of the total) than those of any other religious tradition. Many of them were persecuted particularly for their Christian faith, including the vast majority of the more than 18,000 refugees from Burma admitted in 2015, who face some of the worst anti-Christian persecution in the world. Of approximately 125,000 Iraqi refugees admitted since 2007, about 35% have been of a Christian tradition, far higher than the percentage of all Iraqis who were Christian as of 2003.
At the same time, Jesus made explicitly clear in His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:21-37) that the Great Commandment to love our neighbors compels us to love all those who are in need, not just those who share our ethnicity or religion. Welcoming those of other religious traditions also allows us to live out Jesus’ “Golden Rule,” responding to those who have been forced to flee their homes with the same compassion and respect we would hope to receive if we were forced to flee our country.