News & Media

Efforts to resettle refugees worth privilege to nonprofits, religious groups

09/25/2015 LancasterOnline By LNP Editorial Board


The Refugee Center and Community School will open officially Oct. 7 at Reynolds Middle School in the School District of Lancaster. A coalition of nonprofit organizations and schools, led by Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, coordinated resources to create the welcome center for displaced families. The refugees arriving in Lancaster County include two families from Syria, which has been riven by civil war since 2000. By early next year, some 60 Syrian families are expected to resettle here.

Lancaster County is opening its heart again, this time to help integrate Syrian refugees into our community.

Having escaped from a country where the government bombs its own citizens, and the Islamic State group wages a campaign of terror, they will find compassion here, and a new start.

And they will find support at the Refugee Center and Community School.

That school already has about 45 refugee students, or about 8 percent of its roughly 525-student body. Many are Bhutanese-Nepali; others are from Afghanistan and Cuba.

The hospitality now being shown to two Syrian families isn’t anything new.

This is what we do. It is who we are.

“Lancaster is a welcoming community. It always has been,” Christine Baer, congregational resource developer for Church World Service, told LNP earlier this month, as the second Syrian refugee family arrived.

The welcome wagon needs to keep rolling.

CWS and Lutheran Refugee Services are leaders here in this local humanitarian effort.

Both were part of the coalition that worked to set up the new welcoming center, which will offer English, tutoring and job training workshops. SouthEast Lancaster Health Services will open a clinic next to the community school room.

The Rotary Club of Lancaster and the Lancaster County Community Foundation contributed sizable grants.

More help is needed. An average of about 500 refugees from around the world resettle here annually. Baer emphasizes that community involvement via education, donations and volunteer efforts not only eases the transition of refugees, but it also helps local residents to appreciate the challenges these families face.

We laud the organizations that worked to establish this center. They are doing what Pope Francis asked all Americans to do when he addressed Congress on Thursday: to view migrants and refugees not as numbers, but to “view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”

We hope to see more individuals, religious organizations and nonprofit agencies countywide supporting efforts.

The privilege of helping others should not be that of city-based nonprofit agencies and the School District of Lancaster’s alone. Community organizations and a wealth of faith institutions stretching to all corners of this county can have an incredible impact.

“Even if it’s not a specific call for more people to get their hands and feet involved, learn about this,” Bear advised. “Learn about the history of Lancaster and refugees.”

Our community, and its newest residents, will be the beneficiaries.

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