The Journal Gazette
Sunday, October 17, 2021 1:00 am


Welcoming new refugees can unite us

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

Randall Rider said his Fort Wayne church has never sponsored a refugee family, but that could change.

“Trinity Episcopal Church has a passion for outreach to our community,” said the church's senior warden. “A commandment of our faith is to love our neighbors as ourselves. And our faith talks about extending hospitality to strangers. We are exploring how we can live out those values by helping with the refugee resettlement. We have an interest in helping with the Afghan resettlement if there's a way that we can be of service.”

About 53,000 Afghan refugees arrived in the U.S. initially; another 14,000 are expected in coming weeks. More than 6,600 refugees arrived six weeks ago for medical and security screening at the Indiana National Guard's Camp Atterbury training post.

Officials are working with nongovernmental organizations to determine housing assignments, sponsor families and work authorizations for refugees cleared for resettlement, said Mark Howell, regional spokesman for the federal Transportation Security Administration overseeing Operation Allies Welcome, in an interview with WLFI news.

Catholic Charities is the resettlement agency approved to work with refugees in northeast Indiana. Officials didn't respond to a request for information, but a post on the agency's website indicates it has been tapped to resettle refugees.

“We have been successfully resettling refugees since 1975 and have committed to resettling 50-75 displaced Afghan refugees and provide humanitarian aid as they begin new lives,” it reads. “We expect to see the first wave of families by the end of October or early November. That means we have less than a month to collect financial and material support.”

Catholic Charities is seeking household donations and financial assistance, as well as family mentors, English as a second language teachers, translation services and “teams or groups organized by parishes/community groups to sponsor a refugee family to help with their cultural integration.”

That's the role Trinity Episcopal is considering.

“We've been in contact with Catholic Charities, we have gone to some initial meetings about resettlement hosted by them, and we're having continuing dialogue with them about where we might fit in to be of service,” Rider said last week. “We don't have the capacity to handle everyone that might be coming to Fort Wayne, but we can help with somebody.”

Scenes of men, women and children desperately trying to board planes at the Kabul airport as U.S. troops prepared to pull out of Afghanistan were difficult to watch – even more so knowing those who had worked with the U.S. military faced great danger if they remained in the country. The U.S.-coordinated airlift evacuated nearly 125,000. Many were Afghans evacuated with their families on visas linked to service with coalition military forces, according to Human Rights Watch.

Catholic Charities' nearly half-century record of serving refugees not only fulfills faith obligations, but also builds and strengthens our community and region. The agency has an excellent track record in helping refugees find employment. They are eager to work and support their families.

Many issues divide us today. Assisting refugees from Afghanistan should be one to bring us together.

Supporting refugees

• Donate cleaning and household supplies

• Be a cultural mentor

• Sponsor a family as a parish, congregation or organization

• Find or set up housing

• Serve as an interpreter

• Make a financial contribution

Contact Nicole Kurut at for more information.

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