Dear Congregational Leaders in the Presbytery of Baltimore,
As former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers in Kunduz, Afghanistan before the Taliban took over the country, we have a special connection to and concern for the people of Afghanistan. At the end of this letter are ways your congregation can respond.
In the 1990’s the Taliban ruled Afghanistan out of patriarchal faith, religious certainty and divine law that brought brutality, oppression of women and strict authoritarian rule to the Afghan people. The Taliban will do the same as they consolidate their power once again in the months and years to come. Currently thousands of Afghans are trying to board the last planes out of Kabul or journeying to distant borders hoping to be granted refugee status. They are fleeing for their lives because they supported the U.S. military, NATO allies, NGOs, and human rights organizations the past 20 years.
Today an Afghan refugee crisis is emerging, and you can help by encouraging your congregations to donate to faith-based organizations providing hands-on services and even get directly involved if you feel so called. There are faith-based organizations working in Afghanistan and the neighboring countries. Here in the U.S. there is a network of 9 national organizations and hundreds of local refugee resettlement offices to provide the initial reception and connect them to other services in the community.
Many Afghan families are being met by the resettlement agencies as they arrive on chartered flights. The resettlement organizations must quickly find temporary housing while they help them arrange a more permanent home. Meanwhile, other Afghan families arrive on commercial flights, they often have no money, nowhere to stay, and nothing to eat. Unfortunately, there is typically a one-week to three-week gap between these families’ arrivals and the services they are eligible to receive through the United States resettlement program. Our gifts will provide food, housing assistance, clothing, and other basic needs for our Afghan friends as they await the official services available to them.
We helped sponsor an Afghan refugee family in 1982. It was a life-changing experience. We are still close to that family. Afghanistan has suffered from more than 40 years of political uncertainty, internal wars, conflicts, and external incursions. While the future of the Afghan nation is uncertain, at least we can help heal our Afghan friends and allies.
Here are current ways you can respond:
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is providing international support to faith-based organizations already working in Afghanistan and the region. PDA is also able to expand U.S. capacity through national grants to Church World Servide and small grants to local initiatives through Presbyteries and Synods. Support PC(USA) partners through the PDA U.S. Refugee Emergency Fund DR000095.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the other national organizations headquartered here in Baltimore. They have started a drive for donations of basic necessities that continues through September 3rd. You can donate gift cards from major retailers, backpacks, school supplies, diapers, laptops in working condition, cellphones and SIM cards, kitchen utensils, dishware, linens, and cleaning supplies. They will be collecting donations on the front plaza of the LIRS headquarters at 700 Light Street in Baltimore from 11 am – 2 pm on September 1-3.
International Rescue Committee has a local resettlement office in Baltimore.
The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is partnering with local mosques to collect donations for families and evacuees arriving to our area.
The Presbytery will continue to share opportunities in future Tidings and on Facebook. Or feel free to contact Susan Krehbiel with questions about what is possible in your area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Roger M. Rice, D.MIN.
Judith M. Rice, M.S.J, M.H.A.
Roger Rice is a retired pastor, member of the Presbytery, and new member of the Commission on Reconciliation. This letter was written with the support of the Commission.