In the wake of the collapse of Afghanistan, we have learned that many of the 50,000 Afghan refugees relocating to the US are headed to or already in the Bay Area and Sacramento. The reason for this is, in part, due to the fact that these areas of our Conference have some of the largest Afghan communities in the US.
On Monday, I was part of an ecumenical conversation hosted by Pacific School of Religion and included my ecumenical counterparts in other denominations as well as leaders from Church World Service and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. We learned about the needs for financial support, advocacy and, eventually, housing and a plan in place to invite our faith communities to help.
As we draw closer to the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and consider the impact on America’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan after 20 years, we are now faced with another opportunity to speak up and show up as the Church in a time of great need.
In the coming days, I hope to have specific information for how churches can mobilize to respond but for today, I want to share a reminder of what it means to be Christ’s hands and feet in our communities and in the world.
Conference Council is beginning a new book study on Valerie Kaur’s book, “See No Stranger.” Valerie, a civil rights leader, filmmaker and lawyer, was a keynote speaker at this year’s General Synod. In addition to “See No Stranger,” she has also produced the film, “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath” and, in addition to her Revolutionary Love learning hub, she has also created a 9/11 Understanding America 20 Years Later learning hub to offer us resources.
I was reflecting on what I’m seeing in the news regarding the Afghan refugees and thinking about where I was on September 11, 2001 and how all this has converged into this moment in time where my faith response is so important. This has led me to a conviction about what it means to be a person of faith called to respond to the needs of the world. If put into words more eloquent than I can speak, it would sound a lot like Valerie’s definition of revolutionary love:
“Revolutionary love is the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for our opponents, and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us. It is not a formal code or prescription but an orientation to life that is personal and political and rooted in joy. Loving only ourselves is escapism; loving only our opponents is self-loathing; loving only others is ineffective. All three practices together make love revolutionary, and revolutionary love can only be practiced in community.”
We have been invited into a community response for our Afhghan siblings who need love and support in this very moemnt. I hope that as we begin to see the more concrete ways that we can help, we will all find the courage to step up to offer the kind of radical hospitality and extravagant welcome we speak about every Sunday in our worship services: No Matter Who You are or Where You are on Life’s Journey, You are Welcome Here.