In Thanksgiving for refugees past and present

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By Bob Anderson Correspondent
Why limit Thanksgiving to just one day? I’m getting a jump start by reflecting on what I am especially grateful for this year.
I am grateful for the two young, beautiful, and courageous Syrian families who have resettled in lower Bucks County. The first family — Moustafa and Amal and their daughters Rasha and Yusra (2 and 4 years old) — came last November; the second family — Weeam and her sons Sulaiman and Abdulrahman (8 and 11) — arrived in January. My gratitude for becoming their helpmate and friend requires me say how much I love and admire them. And their gratitude for this country and their new friends and opportunities redoubles my own gratitude for them and the country we now share.

I am grateful for Bethany Christian Services, the agency enabling their resettlement, and for the Bucks County Interfaith Coalition for Refugee Resettlement (BCICRR) whose volunteers are helping these families learn English, hunt for jobs, see doctors, care for children, learn to drive, get to schools, and navigate other challenges posed in finding their place in this wholly new world.

I am grateful for refugees in my family and for the country of immigrants that became their new home. My mother’s ancestor, George Myers, escaped religious persecution in Germany and found his way to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. My father’s grandparents, Christina and Anders Hansen, fled famine in Sweden and Denmark and found true love on the Illinois prairie.

I am grateful, as a native Rhode Islander, for the sachem (Massasoit) who welcomed the strangers (Pilgrims) with the first Thanksgiving meal and whose tribal seat was two towns down Narragansett Bay from mine.

I am grateful, as a transplanted Pennsylvanian, for William Penn and his Holy Experiment in welcoming refugees of all faiths to our state. And I am grateful for Edward Hicks, a fellow Newtown resident, and his paintings of the Peaceable Kingdom.

I am grateful, as a patriotic American, for My Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty. I am grateful for the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, and the welcome we have traditionally offered to those fleeing persecution, violence and starvation.

I am grateful for Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and the white abolitionists who worked for the end of slavery, making our country a more just and welcoming place for all. And I am grateful for Martin Luther King, Jr., the Bucks County Peace Center and all who keep patriotically calling on our country to honor today the promise of equality and liberty made in 1776.

I am grateful, as a Christian preparing to celebrate Christmas, for the Egyptians who gave sanctuary to Jesus, Joseph and Mary when they fled the slaughter of innocents by King Herod, the Assad of their day.

I am grateful, as an interfaith Christian, for Abraham, the ancestor shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Hebrew prophets, the Christian gospels and the Qu’ranic suras all command us to love our neighbors, welcome the stranger, and practice mercy and justice in favor of the poor. Moses, Jesus and Muhammed were all refugees. Thank Yahweh/God/Allah that they found sanctuary.

I am grateful, as a human being, for all humans of good faith who offer ready assistance to other humans seeking help in an hour of need. Don’t we all need refuge, love and support at some point in our lives — whether in relocating to another country, enduring an illness, overcoming a depression, raising our children, surviving a hurricane or bearing with any other affliction? I have been blessed with good friends who have helped me when I was hurting. I am happy to pay their gifts forward.

My greatest gratitude and joy this year has been getting to know my new Syrian friends. What’s yours?

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

BCICRR will celebrate the anniversary of our Syrians’ resettlement this Sunday, 3-5:30 p.m., at Congregation Kol Emet, 1360 Oxford Valley Road in Morrisville. The public is welcome.