Faith-based groups around the free world say they stand ready to welcome and support these refugees. C-U churches have a rich history of doing so.
Another wave of refugees is headed for the shores of the land of liberty, people who are casualties of civil war and tribalism in Afghanistan and a failed American attempt at nation-building. We have an obligation to offer a home and hope to these migrants, particularly those who aided the U.S. military, the diplomatic corps, journalists and others.
Other free nations, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Albania and Kosovo, have indicated they will open their borders to Afghan refugees. The United States is prepared to do the same, and some evacuees have already begun to arrive in the U.S., including Camp McCoy in west-central Wisconsin. Officials there and at other military installations said they’ve been told to prepare for a total of up to 22,000 displaced people. It seems likely, given the numbers of people flooding the Kabul airport, that there will be more than that.
Some church groups in the United States have already begun to prepare to accept and help resettle Afghan families.
“Our government made a commitment, and we can’t give up until the job is done,” tweeted Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “If political will matches military might, we can still pull off the boldest evacuation in modern history.”
“We will continue that work as long as necessary until those who are in harm’s way are brought to safety,” said a statement from the U.S. Catholic bishops.
And Church World Service resettlement offices are offering housing, job training and social services to Afghan refugees in the U.S.
Churches in Champaign-Urbana and throughout East Central Illinois should be prepared to offer housing and assistance to refugees, as they have in the past.
Soon after the end of World War II, hundreds of thousands of displaced people arrived in the United States — 4,000 in Illinois alone in 1948 — to find a better life. Less than a decade later, about 100 evacuees from the failed revolution in Hungary arrived in the C-U and the surrounding area. They were greeted on a chilly winter night at the Illinois Central station by a banner that read in Hungarian, “God Brought You.”
The State Department’s Refugee Processing Center reports that a total of 351 refugees settled in Illinois between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2020. That was during a time of depressed immigration in the Trump administration. And although the greatest number of refugees in Illinois was from the Democratic Republic of Congo (117), there were a dozen from Afghanistan.
Many times before, this nation has opened its borders and its hearts to refugees from Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hungary, Germany, Ireland and other places. It should be prepared to do so again, if for no other reason than to say thanks to those who assisted in our ill-considered effort to bring a new government to an old tribal land.