Leadership Toolkit, February 2014 issue
The start of 2014 marked the 75th anniversary of LIRS and its mission of welcoming migrants and refugees. LIRS is marking this milestone with a series of events.
On June 19, 2014 LIRS will host The Walk of Courage Awards Gala at the Hilton of Baltimore. The event will honor award recipient Rich Cho, General Manager of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats. Tickets can be purchased online here.
Also taking place during this time, and as part of the 75th celebration, LIRS will be hosting a Refugee Leadership and Advocacy Training. LIRS is encouraging former refugee leaders with demonstrated leadership experience to apply for an opportunity to join other refugee leaders from June 18-20 for refugee advocacy training followed by a lobby day with elected officials on Capitol Hill. More information including the schedule of events and the application for former refugees can be found here. Applications must be received by March 3, 2014 to be considered.
For groups who cannot make it to the events, LIRS will be commemorating Refugee Sunday on June 22, 2014 with a special celebration kit. To help you, your church, or group more fully experience Refugee Sunday, sign up for the kit here.
Our goal for this World Refugee Day celebration is to lift up the voices of all refugees in order to create a pro-refugee climate in the United States and welcoming communities around the country. Please feel free to contact Folabi Olagbaju, National Grassroots Director FOlagbaju@lirs.org | 202-626-7931 if you have any follow up questions about the event or the application process.
On January 7, 2014 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) held a congressional hearing regarding the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. Representatives from both LIRS and the ELCA were in attendance.
Prior to the hearing, the ELCA had submitted a “Statement for the record” in which they advocated that the “most vulnerable Syrian refugees should be resettled in the United States.” Stacy Martin, ELCA director for policy and advocacy made the statement that, “Our church firmly believes that the plight of Syrian refugees and of Syrians still residing in-country should be addressed immediately and with adequate funding so that the crisis does not become more protracted. There are regional implications if the United States does not act decidedly and generously.” Additionally ELCA leaders are reaching out to elected officials, including Congress and the president, and advocating for more diplomatic efforts to reach a peaceful resolution regarding the Syrian crisis.
The LIRS advocacy team also attended the hearing and participated in live-tweeting of the event. A subsequent Redefining Welcome blog post on the event describes a series of laws that threaten to exclude Syrian refugees from the safety and aid of the United States. In response to these laws the blog post explains that, “At LIRS, we believe that the United States should commit to resettling a higher number of vulnerable Syrian refugees. However, for such a commitment to be successful, greater attention must be paid to the processes of admission to the United States.”
The beginning of 2014, not only marked 75 years of LIRS, but it also commemorated the one year anniversary of the Grassroots Mobilization Network. The Grassroots Mobilization unit, led by Director Folabi Olagbaju, has compiled a list of accomplishments during their first year of operation. This list includes, the organization of faith and immigration forums, prayer vigils, and educational events. The unit also took the lead in creating and distributing a grassroots advocacy toolkit. They were instrumental in developing closer relationships with ELCA’s Immigration Ready Bench and influential as a partner with The Linking Communities (TLC) project.
In his New Year’s message, Director Folabi Olagbaju thanked the Grassroots network for all of the hard work and advocacy that took place during 2013 and he encouraged continued support. The message included two easy ways for anyone to engage in the work of LIRS and this dedicated unit. You can do so too!
Join us in celebrating this anniversary and thanking the Grassroots Mobilization Network for helping to spread the message of LIRS throughout the nation.
Bishop Medardo Gómez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church (Iglesia Luterana Salvadoreña) recently concluded a 10-day visit to the Greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area at the invitation of the Metro DC Synod (ELCA). The Metro D.C. Synod and Salvadoran Lutheran Church share a special relationship as Companion Synods. The Bishop was here to discuss immigration reform (particularly Salvadoran migration to the U.S. and reducing migration push factors), raise awareness around gang issues in El Salvador and the upcoming Salvadoran presidential elections.
During his visit (January 17-27), Bishop Gomez visited with multiple congregations throughout the area (including a commemoration of El Salvador Peace Accords); attended Congressional and State Department meetings; and spoke at a LIRS organized brown bag lunch with faith coalition partners and activists from around the Washington area.
Bishop Medardo Gómez became the first Lutheran bishop of El Salvador in 1986, and his church is committed to promoting social justice and serving the poorest communities in the country. During the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992), the Bishop spoke out against the repression of Salvadorans and the Salvadoran Lutheran Church provided humanitarian assistance to those suffering due to political persecution. Bishop Medardo Gómez’s and his church advocated for a negotiated end to the war in El Salvador and to members of Congress in the U.S. as he traveled multiple times to Washington to speak in favor of peace. A peaceful end was eventually negotiated and in 1992 Bishop Gómez was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and received the World Justice & Peace Award for his “commitment to the Salvadoran people and actions to create a just society.”
In his conversation with LIRS and activists in Washington, DC, Bishop Gómez described the many factors that push many Salvadorans to travel to the U.S. for a better life. These include both environmental disasters such as earthquakes and other factors such as trade and monetary policies. The resulting poverty and desperation lead to increased gang violence. The Salvadoran Lutheran Church has responded to this reality by taking measures to provide support to children and families.
Bishop Medardo Gómez called on advocates in the U.S. to act on behalf of our brothers and sisters in El Salvador and support initiatives to eliminate poverty and keep Central American families together. LIRS is honored to be part of Bishop Medardo Gómez’s successful visit and we look forward to future opportunities to support his transformative activities in his native country.