Resettlement of Kosovo refugees to create U.S. ministry opportunities

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--The planned resettlement of 20,000 refugees from Kosovo to the United States has created ministry opportunities ranging from direct sponsorship of families to assisting families with relatives coming from Kosovo, according to the North American Mission Board’s immigration ministries specialist.

“Most Albanian Kosovars are Muslims but Serbia is predominantly Christian. This tragic situation has given the Kosovars a distorted perception of Christians and Christianity,” said Richard Robinson, who coordinates Southern Baptist refugee resettlement efforts.

“Compassionate ministry on the part of Southern Baptists on behalf of the Kosovars can help heal those wounds, relieve human suffering and create bridges of witness and ministry,” Robinson said.

President Clinton on April 21 approved the resettlement of 20,000 Kosovo refugees in the United States. A total of more than 700,000 refugees have fled Kosovo or been forcibly deported by the Serbs.

The resettlement is limited to refugees currently in Macedonia who either have family members in the United States, have medical conditions or are cases of special vulnerability, Robinson said.

“The arrival of their Kosovo relatives as refugees is unexpected and will cause extreme hardship on many Kosovo families here in the United States who will be receiving them and caring for them,” Robinson said.

Southern Baptists may assist with the resettlement, he said, in the following ways:

-- Continue to pray for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Kosovo, for safety of refugees as they travel to the United States and for opportunities to be a positive witness for Christ among the Kosovars.

-- Provide financial assistance for resettlement efforts.

-- Lead your church to sponsor or cosponsor a Kosovo refugee family.

-- Assist Kosovo families in your community with relatives in Macedonia in filing Affidavits of Relationship and Sponsor Commitment Forms as the first step in bringing their relatives to the United States.

For more information on refugee sponsoring or filing the required forms, contact NAMB’s immigration ministries office at (770) 410-6343.

Financial gifts may be designated for “Refugee Resettlement” and sent to Refugee Resettlement Account, North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta GA 30022. Gifts will be used only for refugee resettlement in the United States. Assistance for refugees still in Albania and surrounding regions will continue to be sent to the International Mission Board.

NAMB’s office of immigration ministries helped resettle 689 refugees representing 213 families from 18 countries in 1998. With the help of 70 sponsoring Southern Baptist churches, 108 people made professions of faith, 55 were baptized and 625 were enrolled in Bible study.

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