By Michael Ireland, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
RICHFIELD, MN (ANS – Feb. 3, 2017) – Despite one Midwest state’s reputation for being a recruiting ground for Somalis to fight alongside terrorist groups in Syria, one Evangelical organization has come out with its reasoning on why Christians should give a welcome to refugees flocking to the state.
“While we have seen a lot of support for refugees from evangelical grassroots and national leaders in recent months, others are asking important questions about the safety of refugees coming to America,” said Carl Nelson, President of ‘Transform Minnesota: the evangelical network’ http://transformmn.org
In an update addressed to churches and supporters of its work, Nelson said: “I encourage you to use the following information to talk with your congregations about the real fears that some people have. It’s important to our Gospel witness that Christians are seen as people motivated by the Bible and credible information.”
Nelson says that on Monday he participated in a press conference with other religious leaders, and explained why Transform Minnesota (formerly known as the Greater Minnesota Association of Evangelicals [GMAE]), its member evangelical churches are standing with refugees. (Nelson’s official statement and a video of his verbal remarks are available on its website).
Nelson tackled some common questions Transform Minnesota has been asked about its support for the refugee program.
Responding to the felt need to “find out who we are letting into the country,” Nelson said: “The U.S. Government knows more about a refugee than any other traveler entering the United States. Refugees undergo a thorough vetting process of interviews, background and biometric checks, and security reviews using multiple intelligence, military and law enforcement databases. The process typically takes 18-24 months.
“There is no documented evidence that refugees are unsafe to allow into the U.S. According to a new report, the chance of a being killed by a refugee terrorist in the U.S. is one in 3.64 billion. The US Refugee Admissions Program has a remarkably strong record; of approximately 3 million refugees admitted since the Refugee Act of 1980, zero has ever taken the life of an American in a terrorist attack,” Nelson said.
“This is a temporary ban and gives the President time to make sure that America is safe. Protecting our homeland from terrorist threats is really important. But halting the program when there is no evidence that there is a security risk has serious consequences in the lives of real people who are seeking safety. We need to base our decisions on verifiable information about the refugee program, rather than letting fear dictate our refugee policy, which can have grave consequences on people’s lives.
“Because the U.S. refugee program is a complex, secure process, halting it for 4 months will likely disrupt the safe and orderly acceptance of refugees for many more months.”
Why should we let refugees into the U.S.?
“Among core values as evangelicals are the Sanctity of Life, Religious Freedom, and Mercy. These values, drawn from our faith and belief in the Bible, compel us to offer compassion to those suffering the most, to vigilantly defend each other’s religious freedom, and to protect the lives of refugees who are made in the image of God,” Nelson said, adding: “Americans are watching how Christians respond to refugees. It is a powerful Gospel witness when we are motivated by Biblical love to overcome our fears and welcome a person or family in desperate search for hope.”
What are other Christians saying about refugees?
Many evangelical organizations and leaders are urging President Trump to lift the refugee ban, while encouraging effective security procedures. The National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptists, World Relief, World Vision, and many evangelical denominations are advocating for the U.S. refugee program to continue.
Nelson stated that in Minnesota more than 130 congregations are actively engaged in helping refugees through Arrive Ministries, the refugee resettlement affiliate, and the number is growing.
How can I help refugees?
“Smile! Many refugees and immigrants who we talk to are fearful and anxious. It means a lot when someone expresses kindness towards them by smiling, saying hello — and if you know them well enough say that you are glad they’re here,” Nelson said.
“Secondly, refugee organizations like Arrive Ministries need additional financial support at this time. While they may not be serving as many newly arrive refugees at this moment, there are hundreds of refugee families already in Minnesota who need the help of a local church team. The ban on refugee arrivals will disrupt some of the grant funding that allows Arrive Ministries (http://arriveministries.org) to serve refugees and the churches that help refugees.”
Arrive Ministries is an outreach of Transform Minnesota which unites evangelicals to engage the greatest challenges facing our communities as together (we) impact every life in Minnesota with the love of Jesus. Arrive Ministries is also an affiliate office of World Relief, partnering with their worldwide community development efforts as we provide top-notch resettlement services and compassionate care for displaced refugees, immigrants and asylees who now call Minnesota home.
Arrive Ministries, one of five ministry initiatives of Transform Minnesota, provides Refugee Reception and Placement Services, Refugee Employment Services, Refugee Cash Assistance, Immigration Legal Services, ESL classes and tutoring, community development programs and other outreach services unique to various refugee populations and their needs and challenges.
Somalis are a major ethnic group in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul (Twin Cities) urban area. As of 2013, there were around 25,000 Somalis in Minnesota.
Ethnic Somalis first emigrated to the Twin Cities as voluntary migrants in the 1980s and earlier. They journeyed to attend scholastic institutions or to establish businesses, including many professionals. Other Somalis arrived in the United States after the start of the civil war in Somalia during the mid 1990s, or from other parts of Greater Somalia. Many of the newer arrivals moved to Minnesota through voluntary agencies (VOLAGS), who helped them settle in. Somalis that had arrived earlier also assisted the more recent immigrants.
Nelson concluded: “Looking for more information? Join us for a brown-bag lunch event, ‘Standing with Refugees’ on March 2nd from Noon-1:30pm at Calvary Church in Roseville, MN.”
Here are some credible fact sheets regarding the process of vetting refugees:
World Relief Fact Sheet: Who is a refugee and what do they go through to get to the U.S.? http://tinyurl.com/zgsjlju
White House Infographic: The Screening Process for Refugee Entry into the United States http://tinyurl.com/zkjvxal
U.S. State Department: The Refugee Processing and Screening System Infographic http://tinyurl.com/hb29qrr
Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services: Refugee 101 http://tinyurl.com/os7vzzr
Transform Minnesota exists to connect Christian leaders, develop Biblical solutions and equip churches that transform communities. Transform Minnesota’s current five program initiatives support evangelical leaders in key impact areas by providing resources and collaboration on challenging issues. Transform Minnesota seeks to gather leaders and resources to develop solutions, share perspectives, and connect evangelicals for ministry opportunities.
In 1965, a group of pastors formed the Greater Minnesota Association of Evangelicals (GMAE) with a commitment to work together to spread the Gospel. They rallied around the vision that more can be accomplished when we work together than when we work alone.
Rev. Quint Alfors was a key leader in starting the association, and he was the founding Executive Director (and later President) beginning in 1970 followed by Rev. Palmer Yngsdal, who served as President from 1988-2004. The current President, Carl Nelson, began working for World Relief Minnesota (now Arrive Ministries) in 1997, and was appointed President of GMAE in 2005.
In the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s, Transform Minnesota started many new ministry programs including New Life Family Services, Damascus Way Reentry Center, Christian Counseling Center, Minneapolis Police Chaplaincy, Wings Outreach, World Relief Minnesota, and All Seasons Renewal Center. Today, three of these ministries operate as subsidiary ministries and receive leadership and administrative support from Transform Minnesota.
Through the next 40+ years, the organization—which changed its name to Transform Minnesota in 2011—expanded its vision to connect more than 1,000 churches across the state. Today, Transform Minnesota is leading a diverse network of evangelicals to make this transformation a reality.
Photo Captions: 1) Somali cultural event hosted by the Somali Student Association at the University of Minnesota. 2) Carl Nelson. 3) Cover artwork for Arrive Ministries brochure 4) Michael Ireland
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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