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Global Refugee Crisis Touches Closer to Home at Montecito’s M4 Churches

Rev. Steve Haas of World Vision brings message of worldwide engagement to local faith community, Westmont College

The Montecito Community of Churches, known collectively as M4, is led by, from left, the Rev. Aimée Eyer-Delevett, rector of All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church; El Montecito Presbyterian Church Interim Pastor Jay Shirley; Msgr. Stephen “Father Steve” Downes from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church; and Montecito Covenant Church’s Jon Lemmond, pastor for congregational life, and Senior Pastor Don Johnson. Click to view larger
The Montecito Community of Churches, known collectively as M4, is led by, from left, the Rev. Aimée Eyer-Delevett, rector of All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church; El Montecito Presbyterian Church Interim Pastor Jay Shirley; Msgr. Stephen “Father Steve” Downes from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church; and Montecito Covenant Church’s Jon Lemmond, pastor for congregational life, and Senior Pastor Don Johnson. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

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The Montecito Community of Churches, known collectively as M4, joined Westmont College in hosting a community forum on the causes and responses to the global refugee crisis.

Montecito Covenant Church was the setting for the large group of parishioners and interested community members who enjoyed a communal soup supper in the Peterson Family Center before walking to the sanctuary for the main presentation.

In addition to Montectio Covenant, the M4 churches are All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church, El Montecito Presbyterian Church and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church.

The Rev. Steve Haas, vice president and chief catalyst from World Vision, was the keynote speaker at the Feb. 27 forum, called “Global Refugees — A Christian Response.”

Haas focused his presentation on two dimensions of the crisis: Christian response to the refugees’ plight and how church members, as followers of Jesus, engage with these insecure communities around the world.

Headquartered in Federal Way, Wash., World Vision is well known for its more than 65 years of providing Christian humanitarian relief and development to impoverished communities worldwide.

The nonprofit organization recently discovered that out of the nearly 100 countries in which World Vision does its work, 31 could be considered as “fragile states.” There are 52 fragile states globally that are characterized by fractured infrastructure, high infant mortality, poor sanitation and health, flagging educational opportunity, insufficient water resources, civil conflict, injustice and government corruption.

Haas compared the current refugee crisis to the response to the AIDS/HIV epidemic decades ago.

“It started with students who wanted to do something for people dying from AIDS,” he said. “These patients were shunned, abandoned and left alone. The number of concerned students grew and a global movement developed that got people and governments starting to deal with the crisis globally.

“We are now at that inflection point in the global refugee crisis. We are dealing with millions of refugees who are displaced and homeless. Many have no more than a plastic tarp over their heads.”

The Rev. Aimée Eyer-Delevett, rector at All Saints Church, said the refugee crisis — the largest since World War II — is an opportunity for Christians to determine how to respond with compassion and courage.

“As Christians, we are called to share Christ’s love with all people, but especially the world’s most vulnerable,” she told Noozhawk. “The M4 churches invited Steve Hass to help us begin a conversation about a humanitarian crisis that, sadly, is not going to end any time soon.

“This conversation was only the beginning. The M4 churches will continue to work together to educate ourselves about the realities of the crisis and what we can do together to bring real relief to such extreme suffering.”

The World Vision mission statement is “We believe in a full solution to poverty and injustice. We provide emergency assistance to children and families affected by disasters and conflict, partner with communities for long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocate for justice on behalf of the poor. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.”

Click here for more information about World Vision, or call 1.888.511.6548.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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