Welcoming the Stranger: Update from the Afghan Refugee Response Team

by | Sep 30, 2021

“…I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
Matthew 25:35

Welcome to “Welcome the Stranger,” the space where the EDOW Afghan Refugee Response Team (ARRT) will keep the diocese up to date on our latest work helping find our displaced Afghan siblings new homes. In this issue you’ll find some background on why we exist, a call to action, and an opportunity to sign up to receive regular updates on this important work.  

Why We Exist

According to the U.N. High Commission on Refugees, 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced globally as of the end of 2020. A quarter of them, 26.4 million, are refugees: people who are “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion” (1951 Refugee Convention).

These are our siblings. As followers of Christ, we are called to help — to welcome the stranger.  The Episcopal Church and we in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington have long engaged in this great ministry. We are now seeking to deepen and expand our engagement — not only to meet the urgent emergency need to welcome Afghan refugees, but also to build our capacity to continue to welcome refugees from all over the world who will come to our communities in the future. Our faith asks no less.

Faith communities bring unique value to the resettlement process: offering a warm personal embrace to often traumatized people, caring assistance in adapting to a new and strange environment and an unfamiliar community, and basic human connection through personal relationships. The support of a faith community can make the crucial difference in a family’s success resettling in the United States (click here to hear how through one Afghan immigrant’s story). 

For these reasons, Bishop Mariann has established the EDOW Afghan Refugee Response Team (ARRT) to help in the current crisis, and to build capacity for a sustainable ministry of Welcoming the Stranger in the future. 

Through the Team, we are working to empower and support our congregations to undertake the great work of Welcoming the Stranger in ways large and small, in partnership with other parishes or faith communities, nonprofits supporting refugees, and community groups. The capacity we build will help make Welcoming the Stranger a shared, sustainable ministry throughout the Diocese for the future. 

We will not duplicate work other refugee support entities do, but rather, we will be the connective tissue, helping to connect the resources of EDOW parishes and individuals to the organizations aiding and settling refugees, and supporting parishes who are new to this work.

We are finalizing a “how to” manual — based on the experience of parishes who have already aided in resettling refugees in a variety of ways — to assist those new to this ministry discern what role they want to play and how to play it. We have assembled clergy and lay leaders experienced in this work to serve as mentors to congregations just starting out. Stay tuned! We will make these resources available soon. 

A Call for Volunteers

We are also looking for volunteers (urgent need) or references to those willing to provide PRO BONO services in a variety of areas. If you can help, please sign up here

Sign-up for Regular Updates

We are also assembling and will regularly share other valuable resources providing information congregations and individuals will find useful to get involved in this work, from many  excellent groups supporting refugee resettlement. We offer just a few below. If you want to stay up to date on information and action opportunities regarding refugee ministry, please sign up and join the EDOW Afghan Refugee Ministry Listserv

Helpful Resources

We welcome ideas, volunteers, connections, and resources from all of you, as well, as the team continues its work. Please contact the Rev. Anne Derse or Hazel Monae, ARRT Co-chairs, with your input or questions.