Month: September 2020
No matter your interests, we have something for you during Welcoming Week, September 12-20, 2020. From discussions on how to create a welcoming environment for all, to songs and stories from across the globe, to cooking demonstrations – if you want it, we probably have it.
Each day begins with a prayer or blessing from local faith leaders, both clergy and lay. Throughout the day, we will post videos on social media related to the theme of the day. Join us on our Facebook Page.
Opening Kickoff by Welcoming America. Kick off Welcoming Week with us by joining our free, livestream event featuring exciting music, dance performances, inspiring personal stories, and more! Livestream event at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Who is my neighbor? How are you informed by your religious, moral or ethical beliefs? Join the discussion using these hashtags: #WelcomingAmerica #CreatingHomeTogether #LoveYourNeighbor
Share a picture of your family using the hashtags #WelcomingAmerica #CreatingHomeTogether. #Family
Interactive experience at Taylor Books (noon), moving to Capital Market at 1:00. Fill in the blank “Home is ______” with words or pictures. Post on our traveling art board. Can’t get downtown? Comment on our Facebook page, using the hashtags: #WelcomingAmerica #CreatingHomeTogether #HomeIs
Follow cooking videos by West Virginia’s immigrants and their descendants. Share your own recipes or experiences. How does food, eating together, define your family, your culture? Share on social media. #WelcomingAmerica #CreatingHomeTogether #Cuisine
West Virginia Council of Churches Interfaith Prayer Service at noon, Mary Price Ratrie Greenspace
Panel Discussion, Facebook Live, 7:00 p.m. Panelists: Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, Bishop, Diocese of West Virginia; Rabbi Joe Blair, Temple Israel, Charleston, WV; Ibtesam Sue Barazi, Vice-President, Islamic Association of West Virginia; Rev. Michael Farmer, Risen City Church, Charleston, WV; Paola Garcia, DACA recipient. Pose your questions to the panelists.
Refugees, asylum seekers, and some immigrants do not have the right to vote. Vote for those who can’t. #WelcomingAmerica #CreatingHomeTogether #Vote
How much do you know about immigration issues? Educate yourself on our website or Facebook page. #WelcomingAmerica #CreatingHomeTogether #Awareness
Listen to bilingual children’s books, posted on our social media pages. St. Marks United Methodist Church Quartet and Steel Drums featured throughout the day. #WelcomingAmerica #CreatingHomeTogether #StoryAndSong
West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry thanks these partners for their support:
- Welcoming America
- ACLU WV
- Episcopal Migration Ministries
- Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia
- Islamic Association of West Virginia
- Justice and Advocacy Committee, WV Conference, The United Methodist Church
- Elizabeth Memorial United Methodist Church, Charleston, WV
- St. Marks United Methodist Church, Charleston, WV
- West Virginia Council of Churches
Charleston, West Virginia Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin proclaimed September 12 – 20, 2020 as “Welcoming Week.”
Mayor Goodwin wrote:
Our community must strive to create a culture of inclusiveness, which includes addressing disparities, understanding history and countering hate. It is time to come together and build communities where every resident can thrive and contribute.
WVIRM applauds the support of Charleston’s Mayor and City Council in their commitment to “fostering a welcoming environment for all …”
“Welcome Home.” Two of the most beautiful words ever. “Welcome home” means
- You are accepted here.
- You belong.
- You are safe.
- You are wanted.
- We, your family, have your back.
- No matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, what you look like, who you love, you are welcome here.
This. Is. Your. Home.
Yet, many people who live here in the United States do not feel that it is their home.
For 400 years, African-Americans have been treated as less than human, valuable only for the use Anglo-Americans can make of them. It was true in the time of slave markets and is still true today when the lives of African-Americans seem to be dispensable.
Despite the promise implied by the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. has denied welcome and a home to persons seeking a safe haven.
According to the Brookings Institution, the net increase of immigrants in the U.S. population in 2018 declined more than 70% from the year before. The decline for refugees is similar. This reduction is attributed largely to President Trump’s restrictive approach to immigration, including a blanket ban on accepting persons from these seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
In West Virginia, however, we say to those seeking refuge, “You are welcome here.”
A focused effort to welcome refugees began in 2015 when a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy and lay persons in Charleston, West Virginia, met to discuss a response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The Syrian civil war has resulted in 12 million displaced persons, half of whom are children, making it one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time. Who can forget the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi who drowned when the rubber boat his family used to flee the civil war capsized?
Despite our country’s shutting the door on persons fleeing for their lives, WVIRM has been able to help three families seeking refuge from torture and imprisonment in their home countries. Two of those families chose to make West Virginia their home. In resettling these families, WVIRM relied heavily on the support and expertise of EMM and local churches.
This September 2020, WVIRM, in conjunction with Welcoming America, is hosting nine days of virtual events raising awareness of the benefits of living in diverse and inclusive communities. When communities affirmatively bring together immigrants, refugees, and long-time residents, they build strong connections that lead to collective prosperity. In hosting these events, WVIRM stands with persons of faith who follow G-d’s command: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34.
Our central event, September 17 at 7:00 p.m., is a panel discussion among faith leaders and immigrants centered on the theme #CreatingHomeTogether. You can access this Facebook Live event at www.facebook.com/WVIRM.
We, at West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry, say to all persons, but especially to refugees and others seeking asylum in the United States, “Welcome Home.”
September is “Immigrant Heritage Month” according to a proclamation signed by Gov. Justice in January 2020. September also marks the first “Welcoming Week” celebration in our state, sponsored by West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry. Begun by Welcoming America in 2009, Welcoming Week brings together organizations and communities, immigrants, refugees, and long-time residents to build strong connections and affirm the importance of welcoming and inclusive places in achieving collective prosperity. In these times of increased division, our mutual progress depends on finding new ways to bring together people across lines of difference in order to develop greater understanding and mutual support.
Bringing people together and “striving to improve the lives of refugees” is what West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry (WVIRM) has been doing since its inception in 2015. Born as a response to the Syrian refugee crisis, WVIRM has expanded its efforts to include resettling persons seeking asylum from persecution by repressive regimes. In 2018 and 2019, WVIRM accepted three families for resettlement, two of whom call Charleston home and are contributing to the local economy.
In keeping with West Virginia’s history of “Welcome,” Gov. Justice responded to an Executive Order from President Trump by consenting to refugee resettlement in West Virginia, stating that “Refugees who have resettled here have become productive citizens and are welcomed into our West Virginia family.” Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin issued a similar response. We at WVIRM applaud Gov. Justice’s and Mayor Goodwin’s pronouncements that immigrants, and refugees in particular, are welcome here. These times of deep divisions in society call out for voices of unity.
Proclaiming that non-natives are welcome in West Virginia, however, is not enough. We must put feet to our faith, to paraphrase an African proverb often quoted by the late Rep. John Lewis. As people of faith, we are called to stand in solidarity with those who are on the margins of society. Welcoming the stranger and speaking out for those who cannot are tenets of the three Abrahamic faiths.
There are also economic reasons for West Virginians to welcome immigrants, refugees and others seeking asylum to our state.
Immigrants make up only 1.6% of West Virginia’s population, yet account for 19% of our state’s population growth, according to a March 2020 report by the WV Center on Budget and Policy, “The States of West Virginia’s Immigrants.” This population growth helps to offset the exodus of native-born residents leaving the state, which has been ongoing since at least 1990. Immigrants constitute 2.2% of the workforce, 5.5% of business owners and 2.9% of the state’s economic output. As Lin Manuel Miranda wrote in Hamilton, “Immigrants! We get things done!” Welcoming non-natives is good for business.
Similarly, socio-economic studies have shown that communities prosper when they are diverse and inclusive. Inclusive communities attract population growth, contribute to quality of life and prepare us for interactions with an increasingly global society. When all people feel a sense of belonging in their community, they work to make their community better. All people, including immigrants, refugees and persons seeking asylum, are valued contributors who are vital to the success of our communities and our shared future.
From September 12 – 20, West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry will shine a spotlight on the contributions made to our state by its non-native population. The centerpiece of our celebration is a panel discussion on Thursday, September 17, at 7:00 p.m. on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WVIRM. Faith leaders and others will discuss the importance of making West Virginia a welcoming place for all, and how you can participate in that effort.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, there are 79.5 million persons forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict or other violence. Twenty-six million are refugees and 4.2 million are asylum seekers. WVIRM believes that we may not be able to save the world, but we can save one life. You can help.