[Episcopal News Service] Starting next week, the church in Massachusetts will begin opening its doors to evacuees from Afghanistan, as a 13-member family is scheduled to arrive Dec. 6 and receive temporary residence at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newburyport, north of Boston.
The second Afghan family, with 11 members, will soon be hosted by St. Paul’s, which is part of the congregation’s response to a church-wide call to “welcome a foreigner” as the United States receives 50,000 Afghans fleeing their homeland after the Taliban took control in August.
“It is a privilege to support these families in such a crucial way,” said the Rev. Jarred Mercer, Rector of St. Paul’s, for Salem News. “The call to do everything we can to love and support these friends, whose lives have been put in serious danger in their homeland because of their attitude towards ours, is a moral imperative of our time.”
Mercer’s assembly turned the classroom and meeting space into St. Paul in temporary housing, while the organization for support of immigrants, the International Institute of New England, is working on finding permanent accommodation for families. Mercer told Salem News that the church is still collecting donations in the form of beds, cribs, bedding, towels and toiletries to make the newcomers feel at home.
Episcopal churches across the United States are strengthening in various ways to help evacuees, who are allowed to enter the country as part of a humanitarian parole program. In Oklahoma, Episcopal volunteers greet Afghan families at Oklahoma City airport. The Episcopal Congregation in Watertown, Wisconsin, recently helped fill two moving trucks and five cars with supplies for refugees staying at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. the assembly from new mexico launched a stock donation campaign, while the assembly from wyoming took steps to sponsor an afghan family in casper.
Some bishops and congregations provide direct support to 11 local branches of the Episcopal Ministries of Migration, or EMM, which coordinates the Episcopal Church’s efforts to serve these new neighbors. Episcopalians in cities without an EMM affiliate can still lend a hand by connecting with affiliates of one of the other eight resettlement agencies.
The humanitarian parole program is separate from the refugee resettlement program provided by the EMM and other agencies on behalf of the State Department, although the agencies plan to provide services to Afghan evacuees similar to those provided since 1980 through the refugee resettlement program. These services include English language and cultural orientation classes, employment services, school enrollment and initial housing and transportation assistance.
The EMM also called on bishops and their congregations and dioceses to support this work by making online donations to the Neighbors Welcome: Afghan Allies Fund and volunteering in other ways, which they can do via an online form.
In Newburyport, a coastal city of 18,000 residents, about 45 minutes from downtown Boston, St. Paul’s has been working with the International Institute of New England since August, when the United States accelerated the end of its 20-year war in Afghanistan and withdrew troops from Afghanistan. Earth.
Some Afghans have fled to the United States through a special immigrant visa program, which is open to people who fear persecution for their work in support of the U.S. government. The humanitarian parole program is intended to accommodate others arriving in the midst of the recent crisis in Afghanistan who do not yet have legal residence status. Once in the U.S., some may be able to apply for special immigrant visas, while others will apply for asylum.
“This is the time for our entire community to come together, and in this season of giving and generosity, to do everything we can to support these arrivals who are in such great need,” Mercer told Salem News.
– David Paulsen is the editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. It can be obtained at [email protected].