Local Events to Help Refugees from Afghanistan and Elsewhere

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Ann Kammerer for ELi

Local clergy Alice Townley and Kit Carlson are active in the movement to assist refugees.

The tradition of East Lansing/Lansing-area faith communities seeking to welcome all to our area will continue with events and actions designed to help the refugees who have fled conflicts in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

One special event, “A Night of Stories,” will take place this Monday, Sept. 20, at East Lansing’s All Saints Episcopal Church from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The night is an opportunity to meet refugees and listen to their stories. Attendees will also get an update on the refugee situation in Afghanistan.

A Night of Stories is hosted by AFAR (All Faith Alliance for Refugees), and the evening is a way to support the St. Vincent Catholic Charities (STVCC) Refugee Resettlement office in Lansing, which is preparing for the arrival of refugees from around the world.

“This will be an incredible opportunity to hear stories of resiliency and learn ways we can be supportive. Refugees have fled war, violence, and persecution. We of many faiths are all called to welcome the stranger among us,” Rev. Alice Fleming Townley, co-founder of AFAR, said.

“Those coming from Afghanistan are processing as ‘Humanitarian Parolees,’ and will need sponsors to assist with basic needs while they settle in the area, look for affordable housing and employment, and enroll in school. This is a historical time for our community to learn, welcome, and support,” Townley added.

Townley is also a Ministry Consultant for the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

AFAR is led by Lansing-area organizations and faith communities in support of refugees. The group seeks to combat fear-based responses with education, compassion, and advocacy, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Local agencies who are a part of AFAR include The Global Institute of Lansing, the Refugee Development Center, Samaritas, and St. Vincent Catholic Charities. Those interested in fiscally sponsoring a family can use this webpage to do so.

Samaritas helps to administer the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program, which serves youth who flee from war, violence, or persecution in dozens of countries. For more information, or to offer assistance, visit this webpage

As for Monday’s event, face masks are required for those who attend in person, and a virtual option will be available at the All Saints Episcopal Church at the church’s YouTube site. All Saints Episcopal Church is located at 800 Abbot Road.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, the University United Methodist Church will host a poetry fundraiser for the Refugee Development Center from 3-5 p.m.

The program, entitled Singing in the Dark Times,” will feature some of this area’s best-known musicians and poets, including pianist Judy Kabodian, singer Sally Potter, and poets Aram Kabodian, Ezatullah Shamszai, and Tamoha Siddiqui.

In addition, “The Footsteps of Water,” a video recording of a poem by Persian poet, Sohrab Sepehri, recently re-recorded by local poets Marzieh Ghiasi, Ruelaine Stokes, and musician Doug Berch, will be shown.

“‘Singing in the Dark Times’ reflects our belief that even in difficult times, people can come work together to create refuge for one another, refuge that is both spiritual/cultural and material,” Stokes said. “Lansing has a long and proud history of resettling refugees who become our neighbors, coworkers, business owners, friends and fellow Americans. One of our poets [Aram Kabodian] is the grandson of Armenian refugees who came to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. Not very long ago, he won the Middle School Teacher of the Year Award for Michigan.”

At the event, Erika Brown Binion, director of the Refugee Development Center, will give an update on the current refugee situation, and “Refuge Lansing,” a photo exhibit featuring stories of refugees who have settled in the Lansing Area, will be on display in the lobby. 

Masks and proof of vaccination are required to attend. University United Methodist Church is located at 1120 S. Harrison Road.

Correction, Sept. 17, 9:50 a.m.: We corrected the link for the All Saints online streaming option and corrected two titles.

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