Interfaith Social Action Group | Bear Creek United Methodist Church/Woodinville, WA.
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Interfaith Social Action Group

Bear Creek United Methodist Church and Congregation Kol Ami commit to an interfaith partnership that creates connection with other faith-based congregations, to establish a collective voice speaking out in solidarity with the vulnerable and bringing about positive resolution of moral issues associated with environmental, social and economic injustice.

Upcoming Interfaith and Social Action Events

The Greater Seattle Council of Churches is a clearinghouse for many interfaith and social justice events. There are several upcoming events supporting immigrants and refugees, addressing racism, supporting interfaith relationships, and regarding the environment. Check out the calendar- click the link: Community Events Calendar

Justice, peace, truth, advocacy, action?

Get up to date positions of the United Methodist Church and Reform Jewish Movement: What we care about!  What you can do! For more information, visit: https://www.umcjustice.org and http://rac.org

 

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Woodinville Group Connects with Syrian Refugees

Finally arriving in the US after a long and challenging process, 243 refugees have settled in the Tukwila area where rent is most affordable. As they do every Saturday, toddlers to grandparents gather in a community room in the modest apartment complex in where many Syrian refugees live after arriving in the US .The adults learn English and practice conversation, attend a class in first aid or how to fill out forms, while the children participate in art therapy and yoga classes. A dozen folks from Congregation Kol Ami and Bear Creek United Methodist Church Interfaith Partnership recently visited the center to meet the families and learn their stories.

“When I visit the refugees here in Washington, families rent a small apartment and they get donated furniture and other items, but they make sure to tell me that this is not them.”

Rita Zawaideh talks with knowledge and concern about the 243 Syrian refugees she is helping to resettle in the Puget Sound area.  She started the center as part of a program to help families adjust to life in the US and become self-supporting.

“They had a nice house and a business that was theirs, or maybe they worked for someone, but they had a good life. They had no choice but to leave – flee their country.

Rita is the founder and CEO of SCM Medical Missions, a registered non-profit organization focused on bringing relief and aid to people affected by conflict and natural disaster, both here in Washington and in the Middle East.

Rita spoke to the Woodinville group gathered in the community room, as children noisily learned Arabic at the next table. She explained, the families want their kids to not lose their first language, while their parents are working hard to learn English. “Some women have lost their husbands and have suddenly become heads of households, and not knowing much English they must now find a way to provide for their families. Some have lost their children in bombings and are trying to begin again with a new baby, or their children need medical procedures, but they don’t know how to navigate the medical system here. Women have experienced harassment and bullying and are afraid to ride public transportation.”

Through donations, SCM runs the weekly center, provides gift cards for food, rental assistance in emergencies, clothing, shoes, and school supplies.  They also assist families with trauma support, medical expenses, find a job, and other immediate needs.

Rita’s focus turns towards the hundreds of thousands of refugees still stranded in camps in Jordan, Greece, and Lebanon. The civil war in Syria that began in 2011 and has resulted in the displacement of more than 11 million people within and beyond Syria’s borders, half of them under the age of 18.

“They are trying to save money to file for resettlement, to move to a normal place and have normal lives for themselves and their children. They managed to escape the bombs and constant warfare, but in the camps in Jordan and in Lebanon they do not even have the bare minimum they need to live a dignified life. Many are still living in tents and lack electricity and running water. Over half the children are not going to school since they need to help the family, so they are working in the streets at a very early age. They are living on the margin and have little chance of getting anywhere in life.”

SCM provides desperately needed volunteer medical staff in the camps with support programs like basic infant care and education for children that help to restore a sense of normalcy after experiencing the horrors of war. Their goal is to help restore dignity to those who have lost everything, treating each person as an individual with a history and hopes for the future.

For the lucky few who, after years of vetting and background checks are accepted as refugees into the US, families must repay their airline tickets, an expense that saddles the family with an enormous debt immediately upon arrival. After three months, their sponsoring agency discontinues assistance and the refugees are expected to make it on their own.

“The refugees that we deal with are resilient and hardworking; they are trying to make it in this world. The ones that get to the US are learning English, both adults and children. The adults are going to school and learning new careers, the women are using their skills teaching, or cooking and selling their products. “

A young woman spoke up, “I have five children. My husband got a job finally this week. I loved to cook for family and friends in Syria but had no training. I was just offered to help cater for 125 people!  I can use my love for cooking Middle Eastern food to help us with our expenses.” 

After speaking to the families, the Woodinville group understood what a monumental task the refugees face to learn a new language, find a job, and support a family after only three months in a new country.  One of the biggest challenges is for the women to feel comfortable interacting with other people here, and to empower them to earn money for their family.

To provide this opportunity, the Interfaith Partnership has invited the Syrian women to bring their homemade sweets to sell on December 3rd at 10:30 AM at Bear Creek United Methodist Church.  Baklava,  Zeinab’s Fingers, and other Middle Eastern delicacies will be sold by the women. The public is invited to come buy their delicacies to support this cause. An Alternative Giving Fair is also taking place, where you can make a donation to one of six non profit organizations, including SCM, and receive a card to give as a present instead of a material gift.

Pastor Brook McBride reminded the group, that “The Advent – Christmas time is a season that is all about one thing; giving!   After Jesus was born, he and his family were forced by Herod to be homeless refugees in Egypt. There is no higher calling than to reach out the hand of humanity to the homeless and the refugee.”

Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg, of Congregation Kol Ami, will welcome back the Syrian women to sell their treats at the Hanukkah Service on December 16th at 10:30 AM.  She added, “The most repeated mitzvah, or religious obligation, in the Torah is to treat the stranger with fairness and generosity. We are presented an opportunity to live our faith and enact an obligation to welcome the stranger, the refugees. We were strangers in the land of Egypt ourselves. Of all the mitzvots, this is the one we should be running, not walking, to do.”

Please contact Debby Heimfeld or Pastor Brook if you have any questions.   

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To find out about upcoming Interfaith Social Action events, click here.  Church Council of Greater Seattle’s website.

For the UMC’s Faith In Action website please visit:  www.umcjustice.org

For more information about the BCUMC /CKA Interfaith Partnership, please contact Connie Gagnon or Debby Heimfeld