Oklahoma received a compliment last week when informed it will be the home to the highest number of refugees escaping Afghanistan, based on a per-capita measure.
The state is scheduled to receive about 1,800 Afghan immigrants in the next few months, the third highest amount behind California and Texas. That is out of the initial 37,000 evacuated from the war-torn country.
The placements reflect Oklahoma’s generous and philanthropic reputation. It shows a belief Oklahomans will embark on this moral mission with open arms.
Through Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, the refugees will be provided housing and basic necessities to start rebuilding their lives. Dozens of Tulsa groups and faith-based organizations have offered help in this important responsibility.
Much work is left to do in preparation, but Oklahoma is poised as a perfect place for resettlement, says Deacon Kevin Sartorius, executive director of Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma.
We have a low cost of living, good economy, open spaces, military bases and network of faith-based and nonprofit organizations experienced in this kind of work.
“It’s a testament to the incredible hearts and the incredible people that we have here in our community who step forward and say, ‘You know what? We’ll do this,’” Sartorius said.
Not all Oklahomans are hospitable.
The Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman John Bennett said lawmakers ought to refuse taking in the refugees, questioning the vetting process and spewing hateful words about the Muslims. Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, filed a resolution asking Congress to give states sole authority on refugee resettlement.
The refugees have undergone background and medical screenings at various holding spots on their journey, including at U.S. military bases. These are traumatized people who are leaving their homeland because they have been threatened.
Many have worked with U.S. troops and contractors, advocated for democratic ideals or equal rights or are Christians fleeing a theocratic regime.
Americans may have ended its war in Afghanistan, but we still have an obligation to our allies.
The idea of welcoming a stranger is a central part of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Each have supporting organizations dedicated to immigrant services and refugee settlement.
Even without those tenets rooted in faith, it is a principled position for humanity; we must help each other. How we treat those in need says more about us than them.
We believe Oklahomans will live up to that standard. That’s what our state does best, and we are privileged to be chosen for this work.