Great Plains churches ready to help refugees
Congregations across Kansas and Nebraska stand ready to assist refugees from Syria once they are allowed to enter the United States.
That was the message shared Nov. 20 in Topeka, Kan., by Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Conference, which includes 1,032 congregations.
Bishop Jones, in an address to members of the media and the 17 district superintendents, said at least 35 churches have each agreed to sponsor at least one Syrian refugee family when their immigration to the United States becomes possible.
"We have sponsored refugee families in the past, and we are prepared to offer our hospitality for this group as well," Jones said.
The bishop noted that Matthew 25:40 commands Christians to care for people in need. He said the people of Syria fleeing from civil war and famine fit that criteria.
"The United Methodist Church has long played a role in welcoming immigrants to our country," Jones said. "We believe that Christians are called to provide hospitality to strangers in line with Hebrews 13:2: ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’"
The bishop acknowledged the threats to security noted by some U.S. lawmakers following the terrorist attacks in Paris.
He called on elected leaders who affiliate with the Christian faith to rethink their opposition to helping Syrian refugees relocate, while noting that the United States and other nations are under attack by a radical movement within the Muslim community.
"This is a cultural war, and the French are our allies," Jones said. "But the vast majority of Muslims in the world are also our allies, and we need to stand by them against the jihadist movement called dayesh and Al-Qaeda. In that war, one of the strongest things we can do is to show that America … welcomes refugees who flee the evil and terror of jihadists in their countries and where freedom of religion is respected."
Jones shared a letter that he had written to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
"As bishop of the United Methodist Church in Nebraska and Kansas," Jones wrote to Kerry, "I am prepared to support these congregations and coordinate their efforts. I fully expect the number of such congregations to grow, and I will work with my ecumenical colleagues to find other churches to participate in this as well."
— By Todd Seifert, Great Plains Conference director of communications