Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted the vital work of Lutheran social ministry organizations in welcoming refugees to the United States
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
December 7, 2011
Secretary of State Clinton highlights the work of ELCA-related ministries
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted the vital work of Lutheran social ministry organizations in welcoming refugees to the United States, during her Dec. 7 address at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugee's ministerial conference in Geneva.
In her presentation to world leaders, Clinton shared a story about Fatuma Elmi, who applied for asylum in the United States after civil war broke out in her native Somalia in 1991. Settled in Minneapolis, Elmi has worked as an employment counselor at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota for the past 17 years. She has been able to find jobs for 79 percent of her clients this year, despite the difficult economy.
Elmi's life is "clear evidence of the wisdom of investing in women," said Clinton, adding that the United States would be delivering 28 pledges to the conference, one designed to build awareness on a major "cause of statelessness, which is discrimination against women," she said.
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is an affiliated ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), along with 285 other social ministry organizations across the country.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said he appreciates Clinton's sharing of Elmi's story and the recognition of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, particularly "on this historic occasion of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the Statelessness Convention in a gathering of world leaders." The ministerial conference brings together more than 150 representatives from around the world. Clinton is a member of the U.S. delegation.
"In sharing Fatuma Elmi's story, Secretary Clinton has affirmed the invaluable contributions resettled refugees bring to life in American communities. In naming Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, she has also recognized the vast network of Lutheran social service organizations that are an expression of faith active in loving service to our neighbor," Hanson said.
"This is who we are as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Many are descendants of a once immigrant people, and others of those who came as slaves. Together we are now participating in God's work of restoring and reconciling communities by welcoming refugees and working towards fair and just immigration reform," he said.
"As individuals, congregations, Lutheran social ministry organizations and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, we know we can achieve things together on a scale and scope we could never do otherwise. As the ELCA, let us make these significant anniversaries an occasion for renewing our commitment to welcoming the new immigrant into the life of our neighborhoods and congregations."
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the United States' leading agencies in welcoming and advocating for refugees and immigrants. Based in Baltimore, it works on behalf of the ELCA, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Kim Dettmer, director of refugee services at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, said Elmi has "dedicated her life to helping refugees find safety and stability in our community as an employment specialist. Through partnerships with employers, primarily in manufacturing and hospitality industries, many refugees have found entry-level work that has required minimal technical or English skills."
Calling this "a win-win-win situation for refugees, employers and our community," Dettmer said it takes "a community to help refugees succeed. Minnesota has a long tradition of lending a hand to refugees, and they have enhanced our quality of life in many ways. Fatuma is a great example of people from war-torn countries who have worked hard to establish new lives and have given back to the community."
Shortly after her arrival in the United States and prior to her work at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Elmi volunteered at a Somali women's organization mentoring mothers and daughters to ensure that both understood women's roles in the U.S. and the value of an education. Her actions were effective, as five of the six girls Elmi mentored went on to receive a college education, according to Dettmer.
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is one of five resettlement organizations in Minnesota helping refugees gain self-sufficiency.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@elca.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com