Faith and protection—these are two values that embody HIAS’ work around the world, and these also were the two central themes of the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Dialogue on Protection Challenges last year, which inspired the drafting and circulation of the interfaith document Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders.
Earlier today, Mark Hetfield, HIAS’ President & CEO, attended a formal launch and endorsement of the Affirmations, which took place at the Religions for Peace 9th World Assembly in Vienna, Austria. The signing ceremony provided high-level support for the Affirmations from religious leaders of a cross-section of faiths. Among the faith leaders present were Chief Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, and Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg, Chief Rabbi of Vienna.
HIAS played a crucial role in creating the Affirmations: from February through April 2013, HIAS led an alliance of international faith-based organizations in drafting the document, and this June we launched a year-long campaign to promote the Affirmations within the Jewish community. The Affirmations offer specific guidance for faith leaders on interacting with the world’s most vulnerable, beginning:
“A core value of my faith is to welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced, the other. I shall treat him or her as I would like to be treated. I will challenge others, even leaders in my faith community, to do the same.”
The Affirmations recognize the Torah’s thirty-six references to honoring the “stranger” and draw upon principles and values of welcome shared by many religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Available in English, Arabic, French, Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish, the Affirmations help guide faith leaders from diverse backgrounds in providing welcoming environments for refugees, displaced people, and persecuted individuals around the world.