July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Local faith organizations fundraise for Syrian refugee resettlement

Photo by © Giorgos Moutafis / Reuters and © Giorgos Moutafis / Reuters |
Refugees, most of them Syrians, struggle to leave a half-sunken catamaran carrying around 150 refugees as it arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey, October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

Congregations from around New Brunswick have united once again to support immigration efforts for Syrian refugees. 

On Sunday, Nov. 15, religious organizations and community groups from the New Brunswick area participated in a walk-a-thon event to support Syrian refugees in the United States. 

Attendance reached over 300 people, according to the official Facebook page “The Take Ten Campaign.” Participating organizations included Catholic, Methodist, Reformed, Nigerian and Indonesian Christian churches. One mosque, four Muslim organizations, three synagogues and one Buddhist organization were also in attendance. 

“Folks, from across faith communities, are concerned about the global refugee crisis. (They) are motivated to provide real and sustained humanitarian assistance,” said Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

The reason behind the walk-a-thon event follows the theme “we walk because they walk.” Participants started at the Reformed Church of Highland Park and walked a 2-mile loop through the area. There were pit-stops at houses of worship where participants were encouraged to donate.

All proceeds from the event will go to creating a new Refugee Resettlement Coalition in central New Jersey. The group of congregations is working with the Office of Refugee Resettlement and its affiliate Church World Service to identify families that can move into parts of central New Jersey, Kaper-Dale said.

“We are hoping to encourage every town in New Jersey to take 10 families,” he said. “If we all work together we can assist many without the burden falling in any one place.”

But after Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) announced on Nov. 17 that New Jersey will no longer accept any refugees from Syria in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris, this initiative will be even more difficult. 

Kaper-Dale noted that refugees who are resettling are given minimal financial help, which is not enough for any real sustenance.

“Our funds can bring real financial stability for the months after government funding ends,” Kaper-Dale said. “It's also important to support this to set the right tone for America at this time.”

Take Ten Campaign raised over $4,000 in cash donations, according to the their Facebook page. 

Kaper-Dale applauded the response of the local community, saying that the public has been “very supportive” so far in the congregations’ efforts. 

This event also gave faith organizations the opportunity to set the American response to refugee influxes in the right direction.

“Hopefully presidential campaigns will pay attention to what we're doing and pay attention to the graciousness of the American people,” he said. “This will give our elected officials some ‘cover’ to be supportive in all settings when it comes to voting on legislation helpful to refugees, both in America and funding for ongoing support of refugee camps in other places.”

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Sen. Peter Barnes III (D-N.J.) and New Jersey assemblywoman Nany J. Pinkin (D-Middlesex County) joined the participants at the event, Kaper-Dale said.

This walk of solidarity comes at a critical time, in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris. One of the suspects of the stadium attack allegedly sought refuge from Syria, prompting many politicians, including Gov. Christie, to call for restrictions on the number of Syrian refugees allowed in the country.

Xenophobic attitudes are baseless, and “fears of Syrians in particular, with some people thinking that refugees are ISIS members,” Kaper-Dale said. “We are hoping to proactively claim that America is a welcoming place. May other communities live into that embracing identity.”

Bushra Hasan

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