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Mormon apostle’s European visit underscores need to help refugees

First Published      Last Updated Nov 25 2015 10:50 am

If actions truly do speak louder than words, then in the current debate about refugees, the LDS Church comes down squarely on the side of helping those fleeing their war-torn homelands.

The Utah-based faith recently sent one of its senior leaders, apostle M. Russell Ballard, to Germany and the Greek island of Lesbos to witness firsthand the humanitarian efforts underway to ease what the United Nations has called the worst refugee crisis in a generation.

"It's overwhelming to see the magnitude of the size of this problem," said Ballard in a news release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. " … The scale of this human tide has to be seen to be believed. I have seen our people working alongside new friends of all faiths and nationalities to relieve the suffering of those who have been driven from their homes and countries. I am so grateful for the dedicated service of all involved to bring relief to those who need it most."



The LDS Church is partnering with a number of organizations — including UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Catholic Relief Services and the International Medical Corps — to deliver desperately needed aid to the teeming masses flocking to Europe.

"What we are seeing," added Ballard, third in line for the faith's presidency, "is the fulfillment of the Lord's request to his teaching that we're to reach out, touch and bless the lives of our Father's children regardless of where they are, regardless what their circumstances are. We do what we can do."

Mormons have been providing aid in the Middle East for more than a decade, according to the release, donating blankets, clothes, emergency medical supplies, food and other goods to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.

Ballard's trip comes on the heels of a letter from the faith's governing First Presidency urging Latter-day Saints around the globe to help refugees.

"We … invite church units, families and individuals to participate in local relief projects, where practical," the letter stated. "May the Lord bless you as you render Christlike service to those in need."

Massive refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon house more than a million Syrian refugees, while more than 100,000 have found their way to Germany, where LDS apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, grew up and lived most of his adult life.

President Barack Obama has said the United States will take in 85,000 refugees in the next year, and at least 10,000 would come from Syria. That's up from 70,000 total refugees this year.

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, a sometimes fiery debate has erupted across the United States about accepting Syrian refugees and the screening processes for admitting them.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has bucked most of his GOP gubernatorial colleagues, affirming the Beehive State's willingness to take in the fleeing Syrians — so long as Utah officials are satisfied with the screening procedures.

David Noyce

 

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