© 2015 Salt Lake Tribune
SALT LAKE CITY – The LDS Church’s governing First Presidency is encouraging Mormons worldwide to volunteer and donate money in response to a refugee crisis the United Nations calls the worst in a generation.
The letter, to be read from the pulpit Sunday, takes a wider view of refugees, though it comes amid Syria’s deepening civil war. That fighting has turned 4 million people into refugees and created a steady stream of travelers taking risky journeys trying to reach Europe.
“It is with great concern and compassion that we observe the plight of the millions of people around the world who have fled their homes seeking relief from civil conflict and other hardships,” says the letter signed by LDS Church President Thomas Monson and his two counselors, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf. The letter goes on to say: “Many church members have inquired how they can provide additional assistance. Members may contribute to the church Humanitarian Fund using the tithing and other offerings donation slip. We also invite church units, families and individuals to participate in local refugee relief projects, where practical.”
Massive refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon house more than a million Syrians each, while more than 100,000 have found their way to a welcoming Germany, where Uchtdorf grew up and lived most of his adult life.
As hundreds of thousands of Syrians seek paths to Europe, other refugees from countries such as Iraq have joined them.
President Obama has said the U.S. 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.
Syria, bordered by Iraq to the east and Turkey to the north has been mired in civil war for more than four years. The U.S. has supported the rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. To make matters worse, the Islamic State militant group has sought to gain territory along the Iraqi border.
Other faiths have also stepped up amid the Syrian refugee crisis. In September, Pope Francis called on every European parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary to take in one refugee family.