ELCA designates June 22 Refugee Sunday

6/20/2014 10:00:00 AM

​     CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has designated Sunday, June 22, as Refugee Sunday, “when every Lutheran congregation is invited to lift up refugees and receiving communities in their prayers,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, and Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, in a letter written to ELCA pastors. The letter was also signed by three ELCA synod bishops.
     Affirming the ELCA’s commitment to welcoming migrants and refugees, the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed a memorial committing this church to celebrate June 22 as Refugee Sunday in conjunction with World Refugee Day, June 20. In 2000, the U.N. General Assembly declared that each June 20 would be dedicated to raising awareness about the situation of refugees throughout the world.
     “God’s call to love and serve our neighbors is embraced by Lutherans in congregations, church schools, seminaries, social ministry organizations and in the ministry you share through (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service). This is a year to celebrate how we have been blessed and are in turn a blessing,” the letter said. “We are God’s hands at work in the world – offering healing, hospitality and hope.”
     Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the nation's leaders in welcoming and advocating for refugees and immigrants, working on behalf of the ELCA. Since 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has assisted more than 500,000 migrants and refugees from around the world.
     For more than 20 years, Salem Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Houston, has welcomed refugees arriving from countries such as Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Members have provided essential needs, such as transportation, meals and household items, and they have also offered tutoring and ESL classes.
     “We see our task more to help them get their land legs upon arrival in our community. We provide furniture, groceries, gift cards and the like to support the resettlement efforts,” said the Rev. David Roschke, pastor of Salem.
     “It’s in our DNA as people of faith to welcome the stranger. It’s what we are called to do. We do it as church, we do it as synods, we do it as congregations, (and) we do it as households,” said Roschke. “The Bible reminds us, ‘do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it,’” he said, referring to chapter 13, verse 2, of Hebrews.  
     Emphasizing its ministry of welcoming the stranger, the ELCA is currently addressing the crisis of the thousands of unaccompanied minors coming to the United States to escape violence and dangerous situations in their home countries. In partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, ELCA members are pursuing efforts to provide safety and appropriate social services for the children, as well as seeking long-term solutions to the situation.  ELCA members are also working through the agency to help find foster care for these children. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service estimates that 80,000 children will seek safety in the United States during this fiscal year. President Obama has called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to the situation as an “urgent humanitarian crisis.” 

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
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