Washington, D.C. – Faith leaders held a footwashing service in the shadow of the White House this afternoon.The biblical practice of footwashing is part of the Holy Week tradition for Christians to underscore the importance of welcome and serving the marginalized. Faith leaders used today’s service to hold the Trump administration accountable to fulfill its commitment to resettle at least 45,000 refugees during the worst displacement crisis in history. With only 10,000 refugees resettled in the United States thus far this fiscal year, the administration is only on track to resettle 20,000 refugees, not even meeting their own historically low goal of 45,000.
Opening the service, Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said, “We remember how feet, in the Holy Week text of John 13, were exactly what our king of love Jesus touched, and washed, in order to demonstrate the values of service and humility, of commitment to honor and aid those in need. These are values we pray might soon be energetically reclaimed in our nation.”
Refugee leaders impacted by the administration’s policies spoke out as well. Manyang Reath Kher, the founder and director of the Humanity Helping Sudan Project, talked about moving from his home in South Sudan to a refugee camp, where he lived for thirteen years before being vetted and coming to the United States. “It’s very, very hard to be a refugee this time around,” he said.
Andy Kalala, the president of the Congolese community of Central PA, called for more resettlement with a heartbreaking story of a mother who was able to come to the U.S. and was forced to leave her husband and son behind. When she called, the boy would declare to friends, “See my mom is real – she’s on the phone all the time!”
Faith leaders then washed the feet of refugees. In a particularly stirring moment, Beni Deui had his feet washed while holding hands with his young son who accompanied him in a stroller.
Rev. Noel Andersen from the UCC, stated, “Today Christian faith leaders showed the importance of solidarity and servanthood alongside refugee leaders who are doing amazing things to make our communities stronger. We have seen the way the administration is trying to dismantle the refugee program, cutting refugee admissions, and not even meeting their own goal for FY18 which is at a historic low. This foot washing ceremony with refugees reminds us during the Easter season the tradition of prophetic hospitality while tens of thousands of refugees wait in limbo due to the discriminatory policies against immigrants and refugees.”
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is made up of nearly 50 national, faith-based organizations brought together across many theological traditions with a common call to seek just policies that lift up the God-given dignity of every individual. Disciples of Christ’s Refugee and Immigration Ministries are grateful to work in constant partnership with the IIC, as we work to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of all refugees and migrants.
For advocacy questions, contact:
Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-957-7826.
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Thanks for raising your voice and values of faith to support immigrants and refugees, and for answering the call to “open your mouths to defend the rights…of the needy.” (Proverbs 31:8)