Volunteer citizen aid to newly-arriving Afghan refugees in the United States has lit a bright new spark of hope. And many local communities in our country are moving to teach and assist the new Afghan arrivals as they confront unique challenges today.
Welcoming the Afghan refugees as they adjust to a life-changing experience
Washington Post correspondent Sydney Page on February 12 reports that after the historic airlift out of Kabul last August, 3,700 Afghan refugees have been re-settled in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. That’s out of a total of more than 120,000 of their compatriots nationwide.
Rabbi Adam Raskin at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Maryland, immediately recognized how challenging the situation was for the newcomers.
Many of them initially seemed likely to overwhelm social service agencies as they waited for housing and were accommodated in nearby U.S. military bases. Many had to learn English.
So Rabbi Raskin and his congregation decided right away to sponsor a refugee family. As they began learning how complex such help might be, Rabbi Raskin recognized the importance of recruiting allies to participate.
As the Post reported, Rabbi Raskin said: “We could do this on our own, but wouldn’t it be amazing to collaborate with a Christian and a Muslim congregation?
“This is a country,” he added, “where religions don’t have to be at odds with each other, but where they can collaborate and find common ground.”
How the interfaith humanitarian project works
The rabbi reached out to St. Francis Episcopal Church and the Islamic Community Center of Potomac, Maryland, to determine if their congregations would join a project to help new Afghan arrivals.
They eagerly accepted the invitation to help the Wahdat family from Afghanistan, newly-arrived Pashto speakers who were temporarily housed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and seeking American hosts who would help them establish a new home in the U.S.
Since mid-January, the three congregations have divided up ways of helping the refugee family: a 36-year-old father, 30-year-old mother and their 19-month-old daughter:
—The synagogue has been organizing transportation, legal and financial support, such as helping the Wahdats apply for food stamps and Medicaid.
—The church has taken on health care, identifying doctors and dentists willing to provide no-cost service to the family.
—The mosque has been seeking translation services to help the Wahdats in their new life in America.
A model of cooperation to meet a crisis? What if this story inspired interfaith communities across America and in other countries to follow in their historic footsteps? Public diplomacy at its best.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More