Afghan refugee resource center opens in Oklahoma

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A refugee resource center serving Afghan parolees has opened in Oklahoma City, where about 1,000 people have resettled — and 1,800 statewide — following the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. last summer.

A new Afghan Community Resource Center in Oklahoma City is helping refugees adjust to their new environment. (Courtesy of Adam Soltani)

In Oklahoma, a state that has not historically had a significant Afghan community, the governor decided to take in 1,800 Afghan refugees after the US pullout in August 2021. In response, NGOs and volunteers worked together to distribute welcome kits to make new residents feel at home.

This week, through a partnership between the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma (CAIR-Oklahoma) and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City, the new community – more than 1,000 in Oklahoma City – now has its own resource center. Here, Afghan parolees can collect clothing, household items and hygiene products.

It is also a place where Afghan refugees can connect with people who can help them with legal services and any other assistance they need.

“How did we end up with Afghans in Oklahoma? I didn’t know of any who lived here before September 2021. With the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, we suddenly heard the news that our governor said he would be happy to welcome Afghan refugees, which is surprising because he is conservative,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR-Oklahoma. The new Arabic.

“And then boom, there they are. We now have the third largest [new] Afghan community in the United States after California and Texas.”

With the help of Catholic Charities, the local refugee resettlement agency, he and other organizers and volunteers quickly got to work making welcome kits for the new arrivals, which included Qurans, carpets prayer, food from a local halal restaurant and anything that would make them feel at home. With all this work, they needed a space.

Luckily, St. John’s Episcopal Church had a school building that was no longer in use. It includes three classrooms and a private entrance. The funding came from the Association of Pakistani-American Physicians of North America and enables Afghan refugees to collect donations that continue to flow.

“St. John’s has found CAIR’s outreach work to be a perfect match for the type of evangelism that is integral to the foundation of charity that guides Christian life,” the father said. Natahan Carr of St. John’s Episcopal Church in public statement. “We see our new neighbors as a gift to this city and our space as the kind of asset that fosters the kind of community that characterizes the life of faith.”

So far, Soltani says he’s been overall impressed with how quickly Afghans in Oklahoma have adapted to their new surroundings, with children doing well in school and many adults finding jobs. although many still live in hotels as they struggle to find permanent accommodation. due to a nationwide housing shortage.

Soltani is aware that Oklahoma – famous for the Tulsa Massacre of Black Wall Street and the Trail of Tears (the violent eviction of Native Americans from their land) – has not always been a welcoming place for minorities, which makes the new resource center all the more enjoyable.

“All of the items that have been donated are from such a diverse group of people, people from all walks of life,” he said. “To me, it’s a better representation of what Oklahoma is compared to the hate we see in politics.”

He said he wanted people to know that “we’re going to have an Afghan community in this state whether you like it or not.”

“We should really welcome these people and help them succeed. That’s what the resource center is for.”

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