Faith groups take the lead in refugee resettlement talks | News, Sports, Jobs
A proposal to resettle refugees in the town of Jamestown has taken the next steps thanks to a coalition of faith leaders and community members.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said the city started the conversation about refugees coming to the area, but the community and faith groups picked up the idea and started the process.
“The city has entered into a conversation with various organizations regarding the possibility of relocating refugees to the city of Jamestown,” Sundquist said. “As part of this discussion, we had several faith and interfaith groups coming together and saying, ‘Hey, we want to take the lead on this.
Sundquist said city officials are pleased that faith groups are accepting the proposal.
“Immigration, in many cases, has been handled by faith groups in many different places,” he said. “The city continues to be a part of this, along with the school and others, but we are thrilled to see the community come together to take up this torch which we believe will have a huge impact on the city. I am very excited to see the possibility that we bring refugees to resettle in the city.This not only helps to expand the depth of our community and our diversity, but it brings in a new workforce and talent.
Reverend Luke Fodor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown is one of the religious leaders who played a leading role in the refugee resettlement process. Fodor said he was involved organizationally, helping to facilitate the creation of a group to move the process forward. Currently, the group works with the refugee resettlement organization Journey’s End.
“They’re right in Buffalo and they can work within 100 miles of their main office,” Fodor said. “It’s a church-based entity, but it’s not about Sunday services, evangelism or proselytizing. It is about how the church network makes its first call to care for the stranger as enshrined both in the words of Jesus but also in the words of the Prophets in the Hebrew Bible. It is this work that has been the main mission of the church – to welcome hospitality and to connect with those on the margins of society.
Fodor said the idea of community members and members of the faith community participating in this effort is to ensure that it continues and is done well. One of the first things the group did when they started meeting in mid-January was to create a list of why they wanted to work on this issue and why refugees might consider residing in the Jamestown area. These reasons include:
¯ refugees strengthen and build our community
¯ life-changing relationships and a different perspective
¯ learn and share the experience of resilience
¯ prepare children to live in a globalized world
¯ population decline
¯ new energy, restlessness and motivation
¯ breaking stereotypes to live beyond fear
“We want to make sure we get it right if we want to continue,” he said. “If this was going to continue, it had to be a community effort that was not entirely run by the city. It is outside their prerogative.
Currently, the refugees in question are on military bases inside or outside the country. The refugees were thoroughly vetted and given special status by the United States government. By definition, refugees are people who have been forced to leave their country of origin due to war, persecution or natural disaster.
Currently, Fodor said the group is working with Journey’s End and developing a workable plan to bring refugees to the area. The idea would be to start small and bring a few families into town.
“It’s really important that it’s a community effort because I really think it’s the community that will keep them safe – not the government or the police – we have to do this job,” Fodor said. “It basically comes down to the fact that diversity makes us stronger – not weaker. I think the refugees are here to build – not to take. There may be some kind of initial phase when they start, they need a bit of resources to get started. But overall they are there to build.
Elizabeth Litton, a member of the refugee resettlement group, said the group was working to identify local resources and create a plan to welcome refugee families into the community. She said refugee resettlement is an important issue that Jamestown cannot pass up.
“Refugee resettlement matters” Litton said. “The refugees I have met share many of our values. They love their family, work hard and give back to their community. Even though they were forced to flee their home country due to persecution, they are some of the kindest and most resilient people you will ever meet. They are our neighbors and it is our responsibility to welcome them as we ourselves would like to be welcomed.