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Editorial, 9/15: Welcoming refugees everyone's job
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Editorial, 9/15: Welcoming refugees everyone's job

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Afghan Refugees Religious Response

Berny Lopez, an operations specialist for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, moves donated diapers at the organization's drop-off site for items to help refugees from Afghanistan on Tuesday in Baltimore.

While opinions about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan are heated and varied, Americans seem to have come to a consensus on one thing -- there is a great appreciation for and sympathy towards Afghans who helped the U.S. during its two-decade mission and now find themselves refugees, fleeing the Taliban government they helped oppose.

Last week came word that Nebraska could receive hundreds of refugees -- mostly in Omaha and Lincoln -- in the near future.

Helping those who helped our nation is moral obligation. But there's something more at work here.

The very answer to one of our community's problems is figuratively knocking at our front door. We must -- literally -- welcome it in.

With historic low unemployment in Lincoln -- 1.6% most recently -- the city's businesses need workers. And our Afghan guests will need jobs. Government assistance runs out after 90 days.

Organizations like Lutheran Family Services, Catholic Social Services and Lincoln Literacy are gearing up to provide the social, language and work-related resources necessary to carve out a new life in the Heartland.

But the work of welcoming a population goes beyond the organizations created to help. It extends to every member of the community. It can be as a volunteer. It can be helping someone who looks lost with directions. Or it can be a reassuring smile or hello in a grocery store aisle.

Before the Afghan refugees, there were the Yazidis. And before them, Sudanese. And long before them, Vietnamese. 

Each group brought culture, customs and strength to our community. Each has contributed to the extent they were allowed. At some point, social work and relocation efforts become real life -- school, work, recreation, shopping -- and the work of welcoming shifts from professionals to amateurs -- neighbors, coworkers, teachers, friends.

In the coming months, these allies of our nation, many of whom gave up everything to help our service members, will arrive to start building new lives in a new country.

As we help them, we can help ourselves. They can fill our vacant jobs. They can broaden our perspective. They can enrich us to the extent we truly do welcome them into our community.

Because Lincoln and Nebraska have been relocation sites for refugees for decades, we might consider ourselves welcoming. But truly welcoming other to our community happens on a personal level. And we all have a role.

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