August 26, 2021
And who is my neighbor?
I write to you in a moment of crisis, when Afghan refugees are beginning to arrive in our region. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, will land at Dulles International Airport and Fort Lee in coming weeks. Some refugees will arrive with some financial support from the US government; others will arrive with nothing. All have lost everything.
In times like these I am reminded of something Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said on the night before he died. He was reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, in which, you recall, two religious leaders passed by a wounded man on the side of the road, while a despised foreigner stopped to help. King said that when the two religious leaders saw the wounded man, they asked, “If I stop to help, what will happen to me?” In contrast, the Samaritan asked, “If I don’t stop to help, what will happen to him?”
If we don’t help, what will happen to those fleeing Afghanistan? That question is causing people across the country and in our region to do whatever they can to advocate for and prepare to welcome those desperate to escape Taliban rule.
Several EDOW congregations have already begun organizing themselves to help in ways large and small. I am grateful for their efforts and encourage all who can to join them to do so.
There are several ways you can help.
In our region, the primary refugee resettlement agency is Lutheran Social Services National Capital Area. You can go directly to the LSS website to donate much-needed financial support or to volunteer.
If you’d like to join our diocesan efforts, you may contact Anne Derse, co-chair of a newly-established EDOW Afghan Refugee Response Team. Organized by our deacons, its mission is to work with LSS and others to match our desire to help with immediate refugee needs, such as shopping for clothes, helping furnish apartments, assisting families as they adjust to their new environment, all the way up to sponsoring a family for a year. The Response Team stands ready to help congregations interested in exploring refugee sponsorship.
Advocacy is also needed. The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations is monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and provides information and ways for us to advocate on behalf of those whose lives are in danger. You can sign up to receive Episcopal Public Policy Action Alerts for ways to effectively advocate for just and compassionate public policy.
We’ll have more information in the coming weeks. This is both a fast-moving crisis and one filled with chaos and confusion. Thank you for being among those willing to ask the compassionate, courageous question, and like the Samaritan, to step up to help those in need.
If you would like to learn more about the situation in Afghanistan, here are several resources:
- OGR/EMM Webinar Recording: Doing Well by Our Allies: An Overview and Recommendations for the Biden Administration’s Evacuation of Afghan Allies of the U.S. Armed Forces
- EPPN Action Alert on Resettling and Evacuating our Afghan Allies
- EMM: Support our Afghan Allies page
- Lutheran Social Services National Capital Area