Welcoming the Stranger: It's a Matter of Faith
Jims Porter, RefugeeOne's Policy & Communications Coordinator, delivered the following message before the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod Assembly on Friday, June 7, 2019.
Several years ago, I met a young Rohingya refugee from Burma named Mohammed.
Bright-eyed, determined, and full of hope—Mohammed shared his story of migration, one similar to those told over and over in the Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, and 2,000 years of religious teachings.
The Bible is, after all, a story of migration—the story of an uprooted people seeking safety, sanctuary, and refuge. From Adam and Eve to Jesus, Joseph, and Mary—all found themselves on the move, migrating, and, like Mohammed, looking for a better life.
Mohammed was 15 years old when he fled Burma. Only 15 years old, and he had already seen villages burned, people forced into labor and denied healthcare and education – all because of their religious beliefs.
So he embarked on a journey that would eventually lead him to Chicago and RefugeeOne. His harrowing journey included being stranded at sea for 28 days when his ship’s engine broke. Many passengers perished.
Those who survived were rescued by a Sri Lankan fishing boat and eventually offered safety, and resettlement to the U.S.
Central to the Bible’s story of migration is the calling for us to welcome the stranger—a calling for which scripture provides clear instruction—to take care of the needy and welcome strangers into our homes.
In doing so, refugees like Mohammed have the chance to flourish—thanks to people like you, committed to doing God’s work with your own hands.
Mohammed’s story is one of many. Today, more than 68 million people worldwide are in search of the very refuge we are called to provide.
With our support, refugees can thrive like Mohammed, who has been promoted three times in 4 years at his job at O’Hare and who became a U.S. citizen last year. God willing, he will soon be reunited with his wife, from whom he’s been separated for nearly a decade, and their young son.
Although his journey has been difficult, Mohammed says he’s grateful to those who helped along the way.
You, too, have been called to help. As refugees continue to arrive each week, we need you to help us welcome them -- as cosponsors, donors, dedicated volunteers, and fierce advocates who recognize the call of “whom shall I send” by stepping forward and saying “Here I am, send me.”