Tag: refugees

The pope praised him for providing for his parents; now Texas may want to deport them

The pope praised him for providing for his parents; now Texas may want to deport them

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

FORT WORTH, Texas — For the past two years, Mexican immigrant Ricardo Ortiz felt he had an advocate.

Pope Francis, speaking via satellite, had praised Ortiz for “the way you gave everything you could as a boy, when you supported your family.”

Now, the 21-year-old Ortiz — like numerous other Hispanics in Texas  — worries about how the Lone Star State’s immigration enforcement crackdown may make his family a target.

While Ortiz has a temporary work permit, his father and mother lack proper documentation. A new state law — set to take effect Sept. 1 if it survives legal challenges by major Texas cities — would allow a police officer to inquire about his or his parents’ immigration status in a routine traffic stop.

“It’s basically people-hunting. It’s like the new sport here in Texas, and the sponsor is Texas,” the Houston resident said of Senate Bill 4, a controversial measure banning “sanctuary cities” — local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration laws.

“To me, it’s very racist, and I don’t know how people are able to look past that. I don’t understand how people are able to vote for that.”

Bishops for Texas’ 15 Roman Catholic dioceses — comprising an estimated 8.4 million parishioners statewide — are among the law’s harshest critics, maintaining it “neglects Christ’s call to welcome the stranger and undermines our nation’s heritage to offer the light of freedom to the oppressed.”

The bishops recently developed a resource guide explaining their opposition and providing a “know your rights” checklist on how immigrants can exercise their Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections.

Read the full story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

Syrian refugees find ‘second family’ in Canadian churches

Syrian refugees find ‘second family’ in Canadian churches

Toronto-area Christians welcomed Muslim strangers and ‘gained so much in the process.’

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario — Ten-year-old Mohammed and his sister Miriam, 6, shriek with excitement when they hear knocking at the front door.

The pint-sized Syrian refugees are expecting Jori Warren, one of a handful of Canadian church members bringing meals while the children’s mother, Samia, recovers from gallbladder surgery.

“Jori!” Mohammed exclaims as he jumps up. “I’ll get it.”

“No!” Miriam protests. “I want to get it.”

The brother and sister trip over each other as they run to answer the door.

A year ago, two Churches of Christ south of Toronto — their hearts touched by the plight of strangers abroad and resolved to show the love of Jesus — sponsored the Faham Katan family’s resettlement to Canada.

In the United States, new President Donald Trump’s push to bar refugees from Muslim-majority nations deemed terrorism threats — including Syria — has dominated headlines.

But here in Canada, the government has welcomed more than 40,000 men, women and children fleeing Syria’s civil war since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s October 2015 election.

On this recent Saturday — with Mohammed, Miriam and their four other sisters all home from school — the Faham Katan household buzzes with chatter and laughter.

In the living room, the Muslim father, Moamar, 44, visits with minister Noel Walker and his wife, Julie, from the Tintern Church of Christ, which joined with the Beamsville Church of Christ to help the family start a new life here in Canada’s Niagara region.

A hijab covers the head of 18-year-old Samira — the oldest sister — as she serves tiny cups of expresso to the family’s guests.

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This story appears in the April 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In rural Canada, churches that once shunned one another open their hearts to Syrian refugees

In rural Canada, churches that once shunned one another open their hearts to Syrian refugees

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

DAUPHIN, Manitoba (RNS) Ken Yakielashek, a Roman Catholic and semiretired farmer in the Canadian Prairies, says he remembers when Christians of varying denominations “wouldn’t talk to one another.”

To Yakielashek, that makes what’s happened in Dauphin — a rural community 200 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Winnipeg — all the more remarkable.

A year and a half ago, three churches put aside theological differences and came together to sponsor the resettlement of three Syrian refugee families to this town of 8,500.

“We have three different theological outlooks on things, but they’ve been pushed to the background,” said Ron Marlin, a lay leader for Dauphin First United Church, a liberal mainline Protestant congregation.

“The focus was very much on helping our neighbors in need,” agreed Cordell Lind, whose wife, the Rev. Lorayln Lind, serves as pastor for the conservative evangelical First Baptist Church of Dauphin.

In the United States, new President Trump’s effort to bar refugees from certain Muslim-majority nations deemed terrorism threats — including Syria — has dominated headlines for weeks.

But here in Canada, the government has welcomed more than 40,000 men, women and children fleeing Syria’s civil war since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s October 2015 election.

Read the rest of the story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

Driven by faith, Texas mom advocates for refugees

Driven by faith, Texas mom advocates for refugees

Reda Hicks, attorney, community activist and military wife, helps displaced families start over in U.S.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

HOUSTON — To Reda Hicks, refugees aren’t nameless faces on the news.

They’re real women — with real stories of escaping war and persecution in places such as Iran, Iraq and Sudan.

Hicks, a member of the Memorial Church of Christ in this ethnically diverse Texas metropolis, volunteers with The Community Cloth, a nonprofit that helps refugee women launch microbusinesses.

“My children understand what a refugee is … because they’ve played together, shared stories and showed kindnesses to one another,” said Hicks, mother of Howard, 6; Josie, 4; and Katie, born just a few weeks ago.

What motivates the 35-year-old attorney — whose husband, Jake, is a retired Green Beret — to devote time and talents to helping refugee families start over in a new country?

She points to her Christian faith.

“Throughout the Bible, there are examples of people risking everything to take care of others,” she said. “Consider Rahab and the critical role she played in carrying out God’s plan for the people of Israel. Consider the Good Samaritan. Consider every Christian that has ever spoken truth to power, knowing they could be forfeiting their lives in doing so.”

Jake Hicks, 43, identifies with his wife’s concern for refugees based on his own experiences with U.S. Army Special Forces.

While fighting to stabilize Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-torn nations, he frequently served alongside natives — interpreters, medics and militia members who helped save American lives while putting their own in jeopardy.

“Most people around the world just want the basic necessities of life,” said Jake Hicks, who flew helicopters and dispatched to numerous war zones in 22 years with the Army. “They want freedom and happiness and to be able to practice their religion.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the March 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

‘Do we really trust God enough to love our neighbors?’

‘Do we really trust God enough to love our neighbors?’

President Trump’s immigration orders spark passionate responses from Christians.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

“We Welcome Refugees,” declared the sign outside the Northlake Church of Christ in Tucker, Ga., on a recent Sunday.

That message reflected the intense national debate over President Donald Trump’s order to bar — at least temporarily — refugees from seven countries deemed terrorism threats.

Trump’s court-challenged travel ban and his push to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border have sparked passionate responses from Christians.

Members of Churches of Christ express a desire to show love and compassion to refugees and immigrants.

But many voice concerns, too, for the nation’s security.

“For me, there’s hardly anything more clear in the Bible than welcoming the stranger,” said Jim Neal, a Northlake church elder who serves as director of operations for Friends of Refugees, an Atlanta-area Christian nonprofit. “It reflects so much of the character of what God is trying to do through his people.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the March 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Build the wall? Bar refugees? Christians debate Trump’s orders

Build the wall? Bar refugees? Christians debate Trump’s orders

Faithful contemplate how to balance compassion for immigrants with concern for national security.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

An Iraqi refugee who serves as a Christian missionary in the heavily Arab community of Dearborn, Mich.

Canadian church members who adopted a Syrian refugee family with six children.

An Illinois minister who prays with loved ones of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

All voice strong opinions on President Donald Trump’s push to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and temporarily bar refugees from seven countries deemed terrorism threats.

The Christian Chronicle invited them and others to share their perspectives on how to balance compassion for immigrants with concern for national security.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Canadian churches embrace Syrian refugees

Canadian churches embrace Syrian refugees

Two congregations adopt a family displaced by a civil war that has claimed half a million lives.

Third Place, Feature Article, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

BEAMSVILLE, Ontario
— As war ravaged their homeland, a Syrian family of eight fled for their lives.

The Muslim father, mother and six children — among 4 million Syrians who have escaped to neighboring countries — ended up in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

There, they lived in a barn for four years.

Conditions became so dire that the family —including a daughter with cerebral palsy — contemplated returning home, despite the 5-year-old civil war that has claimed an estimated 470,000 lives.

“Inhumane” is the single word that an Arabic interpreter used to translate the Syrians’ lengthy description of the camp.

Enter two Churches of Christ south of Toronto — their hearts touched by the plight of strangers abroad and resolved to show the love of Jesus to a suffering family.

“When I saw the images on TV, I thought, ‘Where would we go? Who would accept us?’” said Linda Minter, a member of the Tintern Church of Christ in Vineland, Ontario, which joined with the nearby Beamsville Church of Christ to sponsor the family’s resettlement to Canada.

Fast-forward to a recent Sunday night: A “meet and greet” event brought together the Syrian refugees — the mother and daughters wearing traditional Muslim hijabs — and their Christian supporters.

Church members prepared Syrian dishes such as baklava and showered the family with gifts that included handmade quilts.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the May 2016 edition of The Christian Chronicle.