Last month we shared a story about a demonstration in support of settling refugees in Charleston, WV. Today we’ve learned that the application to the State Department made by the West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry(WVIRM) and Episcopal Migration Ministries(EMM) has been approved. EMM is one of only nine organizations across the nation which the State Department works with to manage refugee resettlement. EMM is involved in 30 resettlement programs, but this is only the second application they have made in the past five years. Currently, the plan is to settle approximately 100 mostly Syrian refugees in the coming year and hopefully to expand the program for two additional years after that.
Mark Stevenson, the Director of EMM offered this written statement:
I am so very pleased to know that the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has approved the application for refugee resettlement in Charleston, West Virginia, submitted by Episcopal Migration Ministries on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia and West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry (WVIRM). West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry is a local coalition – a grass-roots, interfaith and cross-cultural association of some truly terrific people – which has worked hard over the recent months to tell the story of the welcoming hearts of their community. Thanks to the compassion and commitment of this group, the refugee resettlement program (which will begin its life as a program of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia) will also be known as West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry. Episcopal Migration Ministries is excited to add this affiliate to our network of thirty other sites across the country, as hundreds of community groups, churches, families and individuals work tirelessly to provide a place of safety for those who have had to flee their homes because of war, persecution, or other violence.
It is particularly heart-warming to me that this important step in the process of welcoming refugees comes as it does on the cusp of the commemoration and celebration of the birth of Jesus; for, as scripture tells us, it was not long afterwards that he himself became a refugee. Just as I cannot even begin to imagine the fear in the hearts of Joseph and Mary as they fled for their lives, neither can I imagine the fear of modern refugees as they flee their own particular circumstances. But just as strangers in a far away land offered refuge to the Holy Family, so too will the people of West Virginia offer refuge to those in need today.
Episcopal Migration Ministries looks forward to the days ahead as we continue walking in partnership with WVIRM. There is still much work to be done, but this is a blessed day, indeed!