For 2013 World Refugee Day on June 20, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson have issued the following joint statement.
2013 World Refugee Day
On June 20, as we commemorate World Refugee Day, we will celebrate our churches’ shared commitment to welcoming the stranger through service, accompaniment, and advocacy. World Refugee Day is an annual opportunity to examine the dire global and regional conflicts and persecutions that create refugees, and to celebrate the resilience and success of the former refugees who bless communities in our midst with the riches of their earned wisdom, energy and spirit.
At the beginning of 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that there were 15.2 million refugees worldwide. Of those refugees, 46% were under the age of 18 and 48% percent were female. They hail from Mali and Somalia, Congo and Colombia, Afghanistan, Burma, Syria and many other countries, fleeing violence and seeking refuge.
The United States, where both of our churches are based, has been a global champion for the concerns of displaced persons for decades, and a world leader in refugee resettlement. Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church have served as integral partners to the U.S. government in this lifesaving resettlement program, which has extended freedom, hospitality and an opportunity for a hopeful new beginning to more than 3 million refugees in the past 40 years. For Episcopal Migration Ministries, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary as a unique ministry of the church, and the 75th anniversary of its first diocesan advocacy and relief efforts on behalf of refugees in 1938. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor church bodies will celebrate 75 years of walking alongside refugees and migrants in 2014.
Together, our churches work in 35 states to serve the neediest among us and carry forth the voice of refugees, immigrants, and other at-risk uprooted groups who need a welcoming community. Our affiliates and congregations work together to provide for immediate needs and help newcomers develop the tools for long-term success and integration into U.S. culture. These ministries prove mutually enriching both for resettled refugees and the communities which welcome them.
This World Refugee Day, Lutherans and Episcopalians celebrate the welcome they have received as part of the global family of Christ, and we recommit ourselves to welcoming refugees in our communities and churches. We also challenge our churches to work toward building a more just and peaceful world free from the violence, persecution, and instability that displace people from their homes and nations.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Church
Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org