Birmingham Interfaith Refugee Ministry
Mission and Goals of the Birmingham Interfaith Refugee Ministry
We are an interfaith group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy and laypersons as well as representatives of other community groups who have come together for the purpose of helping refugees, in light of the current crisis in Syria and other places around the world that has displaced millions of people. We are located in Birmingham, Alabama.
Our goal is to support refugees locally and globally by:
- Educating the community and elected officials about the current refugee crisis and the process of refugee resettlement;
- Advocating for policies that address the root causes of the refugee crisis, and that increase U.S. support for refugees; and
- Providing direct support for refugees and asylum-seekers in the United States and in the Birmingham community.
To join the group as Individual or Organizational partners, please complete and submit an application to the BIRM coordinator, Lynda Wilson (send applications to the UUCB at 4300 Hampton Heights Drive, Homewood, AL 35209):
History of the Birmingham Interfaith Refugee Ministry
A Refugee Interest Group was organized in October 2016 to identify and implement ways to support refugees in Birmingham, AL, and around the world. The group was started under the Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham (UUCB), and since its beginning has been open to all. As of January 2019, there were nearly 150 people on its email distribution list. Some of the group’s partners have included the Birmingham Islamic Society, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, the Alabama Adelante Worker Center, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, and the University of Alabama Institute for Human Rights.
In January 2019, the group initiated efforts to expand its membership to include leaders and members of more diverse faith communities and other community groups in order to increase our impact and effectiveness. The group changed its name to the Birmingham Interfaith Refugee Ministry to reflect this expanded focus. The group continues to operate under the organizational structure of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham (UUCB), which is a tax-exempt organization. Therefore, donations to support the work of the refugee ministry are tax-deductible.
The Global Refugee Crisis Overview
Rooted in the promise of American’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. We believe migration is a human right, and no one is illegal. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), there are more than 25.4 million refugees around the world, a number that has increased 50% since 2013.
Although the United States has traditionally increased the annual numbers of refugees admitted in response to increases in the global refugee crisis, in recent years the number of refugees resettled in the US has not kept pace with the worldwide refugee population. In 2016, the United States accepted 97,000 refugees through the State Department Refugee Resettlement program. President Trump reduced the number to only 45,000 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, and 30,000 for FY 2019, and announced the 2019 proposed limits prior to the required consultation with Congress. Only 22,491 refugees (of the 45,000 proposed) were actually resettled in FY 2018.
The United Nations Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution in their own country, because of their race, religion, nationality, or political or social affiliation. In other words, refugees are ordinary people trying to escape war, persecution and horror.
Activities and Initiatives of the Birmingham Interfaith Refugee Ministry
Because the only refugee resettlement agency in Alabama is located in Mobile, the focus of the group has been primarily on education and advocacy, although we also provide direct support to refugees and asylum-seekers when the opportunity arises.
The group has partnered with many faith-based and other community groups to offer numerous educational programs focused on the global refugee crisis. A presentation summarizing these programs can be found at this website: http://uucbham.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/1.-History-of-Refugee-Interest-Group.pdf.
The group works to advocate for policies to support refugees globally and locally. Priority areas for advocacy for the 2018-2019 year include the Rohingya refugee crisis, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and increasing the numbers of refugees admitted to the United States each year.
BIRM members have prepared one-page Fact Sheets to address two priority issues for our Advocacy agenda for this year: (a) addressing the Rohingya refugee crisis in Burma/Myanmar; and (b) promoting increases in the numbers of refugees who are allowed to enter the US each year for resettlement. Please read these fact sheets and share them widely!
Direct Support of Refugees and Asylum-seekers
We also provide direct support of refugees and asylum-seekers. We have provided support for a refugee family from Colombia, collected donations to send to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and to support refugees in Syria, among other initiatives. In January, 2019, we agreed to sponsor an asylum-seeking family from Angola who entered the U.S. at the Mexican border near El Paso Texas in late January. We have agreed to provide up to 12 months of support for this family (a mother and her two children) until she can get a work permit and apply for asylum. We are seeking donations to help with this initiative. Donations can be made by sending a check made out to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, noting “Refugee Support” in the subject line (4300 Hampton Heights Drive, Homewood, AL 35209). Donations can also be made online at this website: https://www.gofundme.com/birmingham-welcomes-refugee-families
How Can YOU Help?
- Educate yourself about the Refugee Crisis. Here are some great websites to start with:
- Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Refugee Toolkit
- International Rescue Committee
- United Nations High Commission on Refugees
- Contact one of the nine refugee resettlement agencies that are approved by the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Resettlement program to provide financial support or learn about other ways that you can help. These agencies work with over 350 affiliate programs throughout the United States. There is only one refugee resettlement program in Alabama, affiliated with the Catholic Social Services agency in Mobile, Refugee Resettlement Program. The nine Refugee Resettlement Agencies Approved by U.S. Department of State are:
- US Conference on Catholic Bishops
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
- International Rescue Committee
- World Relief
- Ethiopian Community Development Council
- US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
- Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
- Church World Service
- Episcopal Migration Ministries
- Provide direct support to help the asylum-seeking family our group is sponsoring in Birmingham (https://www.gofundme.com/birmingham-welcomes-refugee-families)
- Advocate to support refugees. A great resource is the Refugee Council USA.
- Reach out to immigrants and refugees and make Birmingham a welcoming city for all!
- Join our group! If you would like to join our email list to learn about future meetings and other initiatives, please contact our Coordinator, Lynda Wilson.
For Further Information
For further information, please visit our our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BhamRefugeeMinistry/).