On October 28, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service held our third Walk of Courage Award Gala. This year, we recognized two extraordinary people who have embodied courage and faith in their service and advocacy with people on the move.
It was a night to be inspired by the passion for equality and human rights of our Walk for Courage Award recipient, Mahnaz Afkhami, and to be humbled by the service and witness of our Walk of Faith Award recipient, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Senft.
Thoughtout her life, Mahnaz has courageously and boldly worked for the rights of women. Her advocacy led to her exile from Iran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. She sought asylum in the United States, continuing her struggle for the dignity and equality of women and founding the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace. A video of Mahnaz’s story is here.
Ken has faithfully served migrants and refugees for over sixty years, starting as a student at Gettysburg Seminary. One of LIRS’s founders asked Ken to join the Lutheran efforts to serve displaced people in Germany after World War II. This began his dedication to serving and advocating for immigrants and refugees. As Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO, shared with him, “You truly transformed the face of America by the hospitality you have called us to extend to newcomers.” See Ken’s story here.
We had the chance to hear Sonia Nazario, whose writing has challenged us and galvanized us to action. After learning that her housecleaner left four children behind in Guatemala — and had gone twelve years without seeing them — Sonia set out to follow the path of young Central American children desperately trying to reach the United States. She shared their story with the world in Enrique’s Journey, a book that chronicles the dangerous, terrifying path that children continue to take, alone, because they cannot stay in their homes.
Nyamal Tutdeal, our emcee, led our time together. She shared her own story of welcome and hope as a child refugee, and her journey to become an advocate and leader in North Dakota.
During that night of celebration, we were blessed to honor and draw strength from the triumphs and examples of Mahnaz and Ken, Sonia and Nyamal.
That night, we raised over $80,000 for the hard work ahead of us.
The Syrian refugee crisis continues to grow. More and more families have been forced from their homes by horrific, unconscionable, unimaginable violence. The United States can and must do more, and LIRS stands ready to welcome and walk alongside Syrian newcomers.
But we need your help and support. We need your hands and your prayers and your gifts. In this struggle to offer Syrian families the same welcome and support extended to other refugees, each of us has a part to play.
Thank you for standing with us and walking alongside migrants and refugees!