Sister Juanita Albratch, CCVI participated in the webinar, organized by Lutheran Refugee Service, called The Afghan Crisis - How to Help Our Neighbors (August 24, 2021). Here are a few lines to help us explore collaboration and solidarity where we are.
The conference began with a prayer and was moderated by Krigh O’Mara Vignajah. She gave a few remarks about LIRS saying that they are over 40,00 volunteers worldwide working on the worst refugee situation possible. She said that most recent photographs of the situation in Afghanistan are heartbreaking. We think of the people there, but think also of the families, relatives, the U.S. and other countries who see this turmoil and are deeply concerned about their families.
The moderator introduced Megan Bracy who shared on-going activities. She said they have been in touch with our allies, asking for help of whatever kind, especially in receiving, housing, feeding the refugees. Also, in accepting money to help provide basic needs during the time of their resettlement. “We must continue,” she said “until all are safe and have their rights protected.” The Refugee Centers can do this well. Now support is needed in welcoming and providing housing those evacuated. Volunteers are badly needed to provide this service….
She said that “Advocacy with evacuation of Afghanistan has been on-going since April of this year. On July 24th LIRS asked our allies to assist with advocacy for groups, members of families, women, religious rights groups. You have seen the photos of the evacuation of Afghanistan. The most dangerous place in Kabul now is the airport. Over 13,000 are still there waiting – mostly Americans. The Taliban are doing all they can to prevent targeted Afghanis from leaving. Those who have assisted the U.S. over the years must be helped. Questions we have to consider: Should LIRS workers leave? How can we leave? We are asking Congress to support our work here at the moment.
Megan said that LIRS has already resettled over 2,000 Afghanis in the U.S., principally in California, West Virginia and Washington State. With those being evacuated now we will need assistance with providing basic needs, helping them enroll in basic aid programs for at least 90 days. 50,000 refugees arrived in the U. S. this week. We need volunteers to support these people – who arrive with nothing. We need lawyers, money, volunteer workers to provide guidance as the refugees insert into the culture.
Salah Ansury was introduced by the monitor: Salah Ansury is an Afghan citizen who left his country in 1980 sad, angry about what was happening in the country. He said,” What is happening now is a tragedy and is a manmade calamity. I see the people of Afghanistan facing challenges I thought I would never see again.” I am reminded again of the brutality of the time the Russians took over my country. At that time (46 years ago) my family relocated to Pakistan. Now I find myself receiving daily appeals wanting help . . .all have their documents and they are well prepared, but they can’t get out. I heard from one man with a family of 8 children. The family want him to leave, and leave them there because he has more a chance to get out if he goes alone. There are many stories such as this. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything. People can’t get to the airport and can’t get into airport if they make it that far. The only option the people have, is to escape to Pakistan or Iran. Turkey won’t accept refugees! I feel that there will a be a massive movement of people – all leaving Afghanistan. We will again see Smugglers appearing, helping to smuggle people out. A real tragedy. I understand that the states of Washington, Oregon Are very welcoming states and refugees are being sent there at present.
After Mr. Ansury’s presentation, the Director of LIRS spoke.
Regarding the situation of refugees in the world today she said she prayed much. I said, “Lord do something!” God, she says, does respond. He says, “Don’t just sit – step up and do something.” She extended an invitation to all interested to be involved. She said LIRS would be sharing a list of its resources to all interested in volunteering to assist with the grave problem we have now with refugees. As of today, she said, 30,000 volunteers have sent in applications to be volunteers to assist with all stages of resettlement: Provide welcoming and hospitality, meeting people at the airport as well as long-term assistance in teaching English, adopting a family, working with groups of families or giving money for the multitudinous needs of the refugee families (modest apartments, food, clothing, etc.) We need to protect those who put their lives on the line for us. She announced that on August 31st an on-line prayer service will be available in which all are invited to participate – as prayer is the greatest resource we can do and offer. Education resources and videos to better understand culture and processes for refugees are available and can be obtained from LIRS website.