Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director of the branch of IFOR in the United States (FOR-USA) met this week with the Policy Director of U.S. Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Mr. Ryan is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Stoneking and the others assembled met to press Mr. Ryan to pursue a more tolerant and welcoming path for refugees fleeing conflicts in the middle east. Members of Congress in the United States are currently debating legislation that will make it more difficult for the U.S. to accept refugees. These members cite security concerns after the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
The Give Refugees Rest Campaign launched on January 12th, seeking to challenge the Islamophobic narrative around middle eastern refugees (Read more about it here). FOR sent pillowcases bearing the message “Give Refugees Rest, Wake up to Human Rights” to the 31 Governors who have supported anti-refugee policy. The pillowcases were accompanied by a letter written by FOR that condemned this ideology on both moral and political grounds. Eventually, through collaboration with Bainbridge Island affiliates in Washington State, the campaign grew to include efforts to resist the mass deportation of Central Americans initiated by ICE. Grassroots organizations and religious peace fellowships around the country have now joined the campaign, which increased their motivation to go to the U.S. Congress.
As war continues to drive millions of people from their homes, branches in other countries have also expressed concern about the shift in public sentiment away from welcoming refugees to one of fear and concern for public safety. IFOR members in many countries are responding to the crisis, acting beyond their fears to “Give Refugees Rest.”