World Relief, the humanitarian organization established by the National Association of Evangelicals, announced yesterday that it is closing five offices and laying off over 140 employees. This comes as a result of President Trump’s executive order reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States during the current fiscal year. While battles in court over the “travel ban” from seven predominantly Muslim countries have made most of the news, this downsizing is due to other provisions in the order.
As one of nine agencies partnering with the federal government to resettle refugees in the United States, World Relief is directly impacted by both the temporary suspension of the refugee program and the anticipated reduction in total refugees (from 110,000 to 50,000) admitted into the country this year. According to Christianity Today, World Relief settled 45 refugees per day in 2016. But now that the flow has stopped – and is unlikely to reach its previous level even when it resumes – the organization was left with little choice but to make cuts.
The people at World Relief see vulnerable, persecuted populations around the world as their neighbors, and they are living out their faith by heeding Jesus’ call to love their neighbors as themselves. Their resettlement model involves matching incoming refugees (whether individuals and family groups) with volunteer teams from local churches. In this way, refugees have a vital support system when they arrive to help them with everything from furnishing their apartments and locating the nearest grocery store to securing transportation and finding jobs. For both the World Relief staff and the volunteers they engage, the motivation is to demonstrate Christ’s love.
There is nothing happy in this news. One can be generally in favor of tighter restrictions on immigration (including refugees) and still be saddened that 140+ people are losing their jobs. Further, refugee resettlement is an area of social service where conservative Christians have been welcomed rather than being shamed for their convictions. It is unfortunate that such an avenue is shrinking.