United Methodist bishop shares stories of Syrian refugees

In the midst of calls to cast out refugees, United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck traveled to Capitol Hill to add her voice to those of other national faith leaders and three U.S. senators calling for lawmakers to show mercy.

Dyck, Northern Illinois Conference, wrote a letter to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner in November advocating for Syrian refugees seeking asylum. She spoke about those families at the press conference organized by Church World Service on Dec. 8.

"Many young families find themselves between the violence behind them and the refusal of resettlement in some place with peace and safety, which is all that they really want," she said. "I trust that our senators will not prevent these refugees from coming."

Dyck talked about Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist ministry that offers free legal assistance to immigrants and refugees. She said in her conference, the organization is working with eight Syrians.

"Amira is a young mother with three young children, and these three girls are every bit as silly and rambunctious as any of our children or grandchildren. But they have seen huge trauma, and they are just getting resettled by going to school," Dyck said.

"The United States presently has resettled only 2,000 Syrian refugees, and that number should be significantly increased in order to show authentic global leadership," said Bill Mefford, director of civil and human rights for the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. The social justice agency of the denomination advocates for immigrants, migrant workers and refugees.

Three bishops sent letters to all United Methodist clergy in Alabama and Florida, offering a pastoral response to the war in Syria and rise of the terrorist group ISIS, or the Islamic State. The letters were from Bishop Paul L. Leeland, Alabama-West Florida Conference; Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, North Alabama Conference, and Bishop Ken Carter, Florida Conference.

"As we approach Christmas, we remember that the Gospel of Matthew, likely written in Syria, tells the story of the Holy Family who flee the violence of their own home," the letter to Florida clergy said. "We call upon our churches to welcome our brothers and sisters of all faiths."

During a Nov. 20 press conference in Topeka, Bishop Scott J. Jones, Great Plains Conference, announced that at least 35 United Methodist congregations in Kansas and Nebraska have agreed to sponsor one or more Syrian refugee families when immigration to the U.S. becomes possible,

After the Paris terrorist attacks, Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas ConferenceĀ respondedĀ to Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who was among more than two dozen U.S. governorsĀ wanting their state borders closed to Syrian refugees.

Mueller said he favored heightened security but also "heightened compassion towards Syrian refugees who are suffering at the hands of ISIS in ways we can only begin to comprehend."

Adapted, Kathy Gilbert, multimedia reporter for UMNS and Linda Bloom, a UMNS multimedia reporter based in New York.

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