Oklahoma Welcomes Afghan Refugees, Even If The State Republican Occasion Disagrees : NPR


Imam Mohamed Herbert of the Islamic Society of Tulsa, the town’s solely mosque, whose congregation is getting ready to assist in resettling the 850 Afghan refugees certain for the town.

Chris Polansky /Public Radio Tulsa

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Chris Polansky /Public Radio Tulsa


Imam Mohamed Herbert of the Islamic Society of Tulsa, the town’s solely mosque, whose congregation is getting ready to assist in resettling the 850 Afghan refugees certain for the town.

Chris Polansky /Public Radio Tulsa

In a cavernous warehouse in Tulsa, Okla., Kathy Clarke is digging via a giant produce crate full of bedsheets, protecting a tally on a clipboard.

“They’re bringing in a bunch of stuff after which we’re sorting via it,” Clarke says. “Proper now, we’re doing twin sheets and counting them as we put them in there.”

The warehouse is often the place Catholic Charities of Jap Oklahoma phases donations for its meals pantry. Immediately, although, Clarke is certainly one of dozens of volunteers surrounded by donated mattresses, vacuum cleaners, bathe curtains — something a household would possibly must utterly begin over.

Clarke, a not too long ago retired faculty administrator, says she was drawn to volunteer with Catholic Charities for the primary time after seeing news stories of what the refugees had gone via to flee their residence nation.

“I hope that whoever sleeps on these sheets has an excellent life,” she says, turning into emotional. “I do. They deserve it.”

Catholic Charities is the only refugee resettlement company in Oklahoma, and so they’re gearing up for the arrival of round 1,800 Afghans within the days and weeks to come back. That is the third most within the nation, after solely California (5,255) and Texas (4,481). Tulsa alone is about to absorb 850, greater than most states.

Making ready for the refugees’ arrival has fallen largely on the shoulders of the town’s religion leaders. On a residential block a number of miles from the warehouse, First United Methodist Church lead pastor Jessica Moffatt unlocks the entrance door to certainly one of six homes her congregation is fixing up and leasing to the Afghans for gratis.


Donated objects are sorted in a warehouse for incoming households.

Chris Polansky/Public Radio Tulsa

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Chris Polansky/Public Radio Tulsa

“We simply discuss on a regular basis about being conscious of alternatives to supply what I name ‘holy hospitality’ to anybody who comes our means,” she says.

Town’s non secular leaders from numerous denominations and faiths are in settlement about serving to the Afghans, she says.

“And there is not loads we are able to say that all of us agree on,” she says.

Mohamed Herbert, imam on the Islamic Society of Tulsa, politely disagrees.

“I’ve seen that loads in Tulsa,” says the chief the of metropolis’s solely mosque, which pulls roughly 2,000 worshippers weekly.

“In fact this isn’t to say we do not have issues, everyone’s acquired issues,” says Herbert, a Baltimore native who moved to Tulsa two years in the past after graduating seminary in Dallas. “However from my very own distinctive private expertise, I’ve seen nothing however, , folks simply opening their hearts and their fingers to anybody that is new.”

Public sentiment in Oklahoma appears to reflect current NPR/Ipsos polling that finds most People assist resettling the Afghans. However there’s some loud dissent.

In a number of Fb movies, Oklahoma Republican Occasion Chairman John Bennett says the social gathering doesn’t contemplate the refugees to be welcome within the state.

“Oklahomans, I encourage you to name and e-mail the governor, name and e-mail your legislators, and inform them: Don’t permit Afghan refugees into Oklahoma,” Bennett says.

A spokesperson for conservative Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt says in a press release that he “welcomes Afghans fleeing the terrorist Taliban regime to come back to Oklahoma and dwell within the freedom we maintain so dearly.”

Tulsa’s Republican Mayor G.T. Bynum additionally says he is wanting to welcome the Afghans.

“I do not assume the state Republican Occasion is talking on behalf of most Republicans I discuss to, and definitely not the elected officers,” Bynum says.

The mayor has requested the town to redirect furnishings certain for surplus public sale to furnish refugees’ new properties, and has organized for the native transit company to supply them with free bus passes. Bynum has even signed up for volunteer shifts himself.

“My hope is that these refugees who’re coming to our metropolis, that is what they acknowledge about their new residence, is that this can be a metropolis the place we assist one another out, whether or not you have lived right here your entire life otherwise you simply acquired off the aircraft from Afghanistan,” Bynum says.

Deacon Kevin Sartorius, the native Catholic Charities CEO, says all of the refugees shall be greeted at Tulsa Worldwide Airport by an interfaith welcoming committee sporting shirts studying “WELCOME!” in English in addition to Dari and Pashto, Afghanistan’s two most-spoken languages.

“I do know that if my great-grandparents, who came visiting from Germany, had somebody ready for them with a shirt in German that stated “Willkommen,” I feel they’d have been glad and it could have put a smile on their face,” Sartorius says. “So let’s hope we are able to do the identical factor for these folks.”

Again on the mosque, Imam Herbert says volunteers there shall be cooking halal meals and easily serving to their new neighbors alter to life within the U.S.

“, they’re coming from a unique tradition, a unique lifestyle. , the place do you go to get your meals? The place do you go to get your garments, ? They’re coming from Afghanistan — there is not Walmart in Afghanistan,” Herbert says.

Herbert says he hopes the refugees really feel simply as welcome in Oklahoma as he has.

He’ll know quickly if that want comes true. The very first refugee touched down on Friday, with a whole bunch set to comply with within the days and weeks to come back. | Oklahoma Welcomes Afghan Refugees, Even If The State Republican Occasion Disagrees : NPR

Aila Slisco

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