February 10, 2017


'Now they live in the light': A Syrian refugee family finds only love and compassion in America (Colby Itkowitz February 10, 2017, Washington Post)

Maher Almahasneh returned home from his English language class to a small living room filled with guests. He calls them friends.

Harley Kooker, a 71-year-old dairy cattle veterinarian, was huddled in a kitchen corner assembling a new portable washing machine he'd persuaded a local appliance store to donate. His wife, Kate, was sitting on the couch letting the Almahasnehs' 7-year-old daughter measure her head and her waist with a tape measure. Their case manager from Church World Service was also there, as was an Arabic translator. Within the hour two more women from their Mennonite church welcome team would drop in to say a quick hello.

Here in Lancaster County, a politically conservative area well known for its Amish community, traditional Christian values run deep. Since the Church World Service opened a Lancaster office 30 years ago, it has been a favored destination for resettling refugees because churches here easily assemble welcome teams whose members see it as a godly duty to care for those in need.

In the last fiscal year, Lancaster County resettled more than 400 refugees from all over the world, with the largest numbers coming from the Congo and Syria. Trump's executive order to ban refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Syria, is hard for members of the Almahasnehs' welcome team to fathom, especially now that they have grown close to the family. The ban is in the name of national security, the Trump White House says, but they look at this family that has endured so much and wants so little and can't understand why anyone would fear them.

"When I see refugees now being shut off like that I think how on earth can we be so hardhearted," said Harley, who first worked with refugees in Vietnam as a conscientious objector to that war. "I was always taught that we love whoever regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, you know, that's who my Jesus is, that's what my Jesus taught."

Posted by at February 10, 2017 6:38 PM