Welcome the Stranger. . .

As we watch television and see the thousands of men, women and children who are trying to flee from the war in Syria and other areas of the Middle East, the world is being called upon to take these refugees in.

But, if you have watched any of the political debates, you know that the current ‘cause celebré’ is not only closing the borders to additional immigrants, but also sending those who are here back from whence they came. Many of the potential political candidates have adopted the attitude that these migrating people (documented or undocumented) are a detriment to our society.

How is it, that we, who profess to be a Christian nation forget one of the primary teachings of Jesus:

    The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:34)

I recently attended a ‘National Welcome Week’ and Citizenship Ceremony held by the City of Columbus Community Relations Commission where we witnessed 40 people from 32 countries become American citizens. This was one of the most moving ceremonies I have ever attended. These people struggled to get to the United States, fulfilled requirements of background checks by Homeland Security, learned English, studied for a citizenship test (which most of our high school graduates could not pass), and willing gave up their citizenship of their native land. These people are now citizens, a part of the integrated fabric of America and Columbus.

For those who consider these new American immigrants a toll on our city, let me provide you with some ‘real’ facts on their impact on Columbus and Central Ohio:

  1. Approximately 9,800 refugees have migrated to the Central Ohio area in the last ten years
  2. 48.4% of all the refugees settling in Ohio from 2012 to 2014 settled in Franklin County
  3. 41.86% of these immigrants are currently enrolled in college or graduated from college
  4. Somalians account for 52.5% of refugees settling in Franklin county since 2002
  5. Refugees’ median household income is $42,000 compared to $51,460 for other households
  6. Refugees/immigrants spend approximately $35.9 million in Columbus yearly
  7. Refugees/immigrants contribute income of approximately $1.6 billion in that same time period
  8. Immigrants constitute 13.6% of the entrepreneurs in Franklin County, employing more than 23,273 employees*

We are reminded by Jesus:

    I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. . . Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me. (Matthew 25:35, 40)

    Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me. (Matthew 18:5)

As the situation in Africa and the Middle East worsens, I call upon Saint John’s to consider welcoming strangers in collaboration with state agencies such as Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS), to sponsor and support these individuals and families who are coming to Central Ohio to build new lives.

More information about assisting with resettlements can be found on CRIS (Community Refugee & Immigration Services)

* Statistics provided by Community Research Partners in conjunction with the Columbus Community Relations Commission, Community Refugee & Immigration Services, Homeland Security and state and federal government
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church, 19 September 20015

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