Refugees—Fresh Starts Require New Friends

16 04 2017

(an interview with Nick Armstrong of Glocal Community Partners)

For the past 3 years Nick and Laura Armstrong have been working with refugees in Boise, ID. Over 50% of the refugees coming to Boise are Muslim, and not everyone in the community is ready to welcome them. So Nick and Laura built relationships with 45 local churches to train and mobilize Christian families to start a friendship with a refugee family. I asked Nick to share about the refugees’ rocky path to starting a new life in America.

JB: How does a refugee end up in Boise, ID?

NA: It’s actually quite difficult to come to America as a refugee. About 1% of the over 21 million refugees in the world get resettled to a “third country” such as the US (for example, a Syrian flees to Jordan and gets refugee status there and then applies for a third country resettlement) and about half of those actually get approved to come to the US. Those refugees who get approved to come to the US go through a vetting process that is, by far, the most stringent of any entrant classification (e.g. tourist, student, business visa), and it takes a minimum of 18 months to go through the US vetting process which includes the involvement of the National Counter-terrorist Center, the FBI, the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense) with an average time of 3 years to pass through a stringent vetting process before they can come to the US. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in cooperation with “3rd country” resettlement governments determine where a refugee will go, which means they could end up in Finland as easily as in Boise, ID. The family ties a refugee has in a “3rd country” can influence that decision, but there are no guarantees.

JB: Who takes care of them once they arrive in Boise?

NA: The Organization for Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in Washington D.C. coordinates with resettlement agencies such as World Relief, to determine the allocation of refugees to the various resettlement cities and agencies throughout the US. In the case of Idaho, once the refugees arrive, they receive an 8-month Transitional Refugee Assistance (TRA) from the resettlement agency which receives federal government funding. There is additional financial support from state and local governments. This helps them to rent a home, look for a job, get kids signed up in school, get medical coverage, join English language classes, etc.

Our role in this process is to help the newcomers to find local friends. They’ve lost their friends and community, and we want them to find new friends and a new sense of community in Boise. These new friends can also offer much needed social capital to people who need as many positive connection points to the community as they can get.

JB: What are some of the challenges resettled refugees face?

NA: These refugees have spent their most recent years in camps, etc., with a service-oriented mindset. They fled their homes with nothing, so everything had to be provided for them. They arrive in a similar place of need and similar mindset. They need integration and independence skills, especially language, and this takes time and a lot of help.

Many refugees come with various degrees of mental stress and traumas from the past, some come with PTSD. Most come with feelings of isolation and grieving tremendous loss. They need healing for their hearts. Some are finding healing and a new sense of community. But a few, like one woman we know whose PTSD is so overwhelming she continues to hide in her home after 2 years, need more help than the 8-month government program. They need a loving community who will reach out and walk with them through this tough transition.

JB: How have the citizens of Boise responded to the refugees?

NA: Well, I think that overall Boise has been a very open city with a mayor who has led the way in reaching out to refugees, recognizing the many benefits they can bring to the community. Having said that, there are still instances of hate crimes and bullying. The recent political climate has stirred up fear of refugees being potential terrorists, although the data doesn’t support such fear. Since 1975 over 3 million refugees have entered the US, and not one single terrorist attack on US soil has been perpetrated by a refugee! Our refugee crime rates are lower than the general populace. So that’s one of the challenges for us, to educate people and especially the churches that we work with to cast aside their fears and offer true friendship.

In our program, we require each Christian family to commit to weekly visits for 3 months with a refugee family, after that their level of involvement is up to them. I’m happy to share that 44 of the 45 Christian families in the friendship program have continued long past the original deadline and are delighted by the two-way friendships they’ve developed with the refugee families.

JB: Nick, I want to thank you for the wonderful work you’re doing! I love showcasing people on my blog who really live out “love your neighbor as yourself.” God bless you and your work!

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1001 Ways to Die in America

19 10 2016

cemetary   I’ve been criticized for not treating the threat of a Muslim terrorist sneaking into the US posing as a refugee as real. Let me be clear—that is a real threat. The events in Chattanooga and San Bernadino last year (19 killed) and Orlando this year (49 killed) remind us that there are Muslims motivated by hate who are willing to kill Americans.

At the same time, I’d like to bring some perspective to the actual danger this poses to you, because the fear of Muslim refugees that is saturating our media has been blown all out of proportion. Yes, there is a danger you may be killed by a Muslim refugee this year. There is also a danger you might have a tree fall on your head. And guess which one is more likely? The falling tree by a long shot.

Let’s take a look at some actual statistics to determine how likely a Muslim refugee terrorist might be to cause your death. Is it really worth your anxiety, or would your worries be better invested somewhere else?

Here’s what I discovered. Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning or die from a peanut allergy than to die in a Muslim terrorist attack. In fact, you’re 10 times more likely to die by falling out of your own bed. You’re about 80 times more likely to die by walking across the street. You’re nearly 100 times more likely to die by texting while driving. And you’re 700 times more likely to die by choosing to kill yourself.

That doesn’t even account for the truly great killers among us, such as poor eating habits, the consumption of tobacco, alcohol or drugs, or being the victim of a medical error (your doctor or nurse is 4000 times more likely to kill you!).

There are so many ways to die in America it’s crazy. But dying at the hand of a Muslim terrorist is about as likely as discovering you had a long-lost identical twin. Last year’s statistics show that more Americans were shot and killed by toddlers with guns than by Islamic terrorists!

And check this out—in all of 2015, do you know how many deaths in America were caused by Muslim refugees or illegal aliens? Zero. As in none. It never happened. (American citizens and permanent residents were responsible for Chattanooga, San Bernadino and Orlando.)

So if America needs to close our borders or banish somebody or something, how about we start with tobacco, alcohol, fast food and incompetent medical professionals? Then we can move on to cell phones, peanuts, beds, trees and lightning. Next we’ll get rid of toddlers. Then we can deal with those nasty, dangerous Muslim refugees.

For more insight on your deadliest enemies, check out 2016’s latest statistics at: http://www.romans322.com/daily-death-rate-statistics.php

Some of you may think I’m wrong. You’re welcome to argue your point! Go ahead and comment below.

My hope is that you live a long and fear-free life. The world needs your love.