Today, more than 65 million people — nearly one out of every 100 people — have been forced from their homes, often fleeing with only the items on their backs. The circumstances that cause these individuals and families to leave everything behind vary and include war, persecution, terror, gangs, natural disaster, and famine. The result is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime.
Over 22.5 million of these individuals have been formally designated as refugees, offering them some degree of international legal protection. A refugee is defined as someone who has been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war or violence. Refugees must prove a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are the leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries. Today, more than 50 percent of all refugees are children.
Refugees remain uprooted for an average of 17 years. Many find shelter in formal or informal refugee camps, where they might receive basic services but are not able to build meaningful lives. Others live underground in towns and cities, without the ability to legally work or send their children to school. A very small number of refugees are formally resettled in countries willing to take them. Historically, the United States has been a leader in refugee resettlement, welcoming over 3 million refugees from around the world since 1975. Refugees have built new lives in towns and cities across the U.S.
Yet, as the refugee crisis intensifies, new policies in the United States and Europe threaten to weaken the global refugee protection and resettlement system. The U.S., in contrast to its historical leadership role on refugees, has moved to reduce refugee admissions and put in place policies that will have a reverberating impact across the world.
Through strategic grant-making, Interfaith Refugee Project supports refugees to achieve safety and dignity, and resettle with support to build a full life. We believe that to create a world safe for refugees, we must foster mutual respect and responsibility across different faiths and communities.
When refugees flee their homes, they face a multitude of challenges. They need immediate crisis response, long-term humanitarian assistance, comprehensive legal representation and help resettling to build a new life. They also need an international community that is advocating on their behalf to create a policy and legal environment welcoming of refugees. Collectively, Interfaith Refugee Project supports organizations that address all of these needs. Through building a portfolio of grants that responds comprehensively to these challenges, we seek to bring attention to the perilous journey each refugee faces from the moment they flee their homes through their struggle to build a new life, often far away from home and with very little support.
Interfaith Refugee Project supporters come from all different faiths and backgrounds, including no faith at all, with the common goal of bringing safety and dignity to refugees.
Historically, refugee protection and resettlement has been driven by communities of faith and faith-based institutions. It was, and in many cases still is today, churches, mosques, synagogues, and the like, who supported refugees to get on their feet and advocated to welcome the stranger, a shared tenet of many different faiths.
Looking to the future, it is clear that an entire generation—all the children currently on the move—their lives and the lives of their children will be shaped by how welcoming and how generous the international community is in responding to “the stranger.” We are living in a time when xenophobic rhetoric is winning votes all across the globe. Interfaith Refugee Projects asks people to leave their silos and join together to affirm our mutual responsibility and shared humanity.
By supporting primarily, but not exclusively, faith-rooted organizations from different faiths, we affirm the value of faith driven responses to the refugee crisis and encourage our donors to step out of their comfort-zone and support organizations that are led by different faith communities.
A faith-rooted organization is called by faith to take action against injustice and works to mobilize their communities to protect the vulnerable. The faith-rooted organizations that we support are motivated by their faith, but they protect the most vulnerable refugees, regardless of faith. All three organizations help people of all religious backgrounds and identities. We believe it is a powerful testament of mutual responsibility when a Jewish organization stands up and advocates for Muslim refugees, or a Muslim organization works to provide immediate humanitarian support to Christians in needs, or a Christian organization provides clean water and education to millions of Muslims.
 See, for example, Jessica Eby et al., “The Faith Community’s Role in Refugee Resettlement in the United States,” Journal of Refugee Studies 24 No. 3, 588.
Any donation made to the Interfaith Refugee Project is split equally between four organizations: HIAS, International Refugee Assistance Project, Islamic Relief and World Vision. We encourage you to visit the Partners section of our website to learn more about each organization and watch a video that highlights their work.
Interfaith Refugee Project is not a political organization, and we seek to work with people across the political spectrum to protect refugees. However, we believe that President Trump’s Executive Order on travel and refugees puts refugees at great risk and sets a poor example for the rest of the world. Two of the organizations we support, HIAS and IRAP, joined together to bring a lawsuit against the Executive Order, challenging it as unconstitutional. The fourth circuit court of appeals ruled in their favor, affirming the suspension of the Executive Order because it “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” This case will now be heard in the Supreme Court.
In the chaotic days following the signing of the Executive Order, IRAP mobilized thousands of lawyers to flood U.S. airports to defend the rights of refugees and immigrants. IRAP also brought the first lawsuit filed in response to the Executive Order and prompted a federal judge in New York to grant a nationwide stay of removal, preventing the unlawful detention and deportation of refugees and others who had valid documents to enter the United States. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Iraqi IRAP clients who had been unjustly detained at the airport and threatened with deportation.
Both HIAS and IRAP are working tirelessly to advocate for congressional efforts to oppose the limits on refugee resettlement and to educate the public on the negative impact of any refugee resettlement reduction for vulnerable groups. We encourage our supporters to join their efforts. You can sign up to receive action alerts from IRAP, which will let you know when you can make your voice heard to impact U.S. policy. Please visit https://refugeerights.org/policy-action-alerts/ to subscribe to these alerts.
As governments across the globe enact policies to shut their doors to refugees, it is more critical than ever that we continue to support humanitarian organizations like Islamic Relief and World Vision, who are providing the critical emergency response and humanitarian assistance to all those who are currently living between home and safety with no place to go.
At this point, Interfaith Refugee Project is a volunteer initiative and does not have 501c3 status. However, your donation is fully tax deductible because HIAS acts as our fiscal sponsor for U.S. based donations. Any donation you make will go directly to HIAS, and they will issue you a tax receipt for the full amount. HIAS will then divide the money equally between the four organizations. (World Vision acts as our fiscal sponsor in Canada.) You will receive a thank you note from each of the other three organizations, but they will not add you to their mailing lists. Interfaith Refugee Project will not collect any of your money—100 percent of it will go to the organizations we support.
We are looking to expand our network and base of supporters, and for that we need your help. If you are interested in joining our leadership circle to work with us in this capacity, please contact Greg Sharenow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also need support building our operational capacity, growing our social media presence and shaping our vision for the future. If you have time and/or expertise to offer, please contact Julie Gersten at email@example.com.
We are also planning events in New York City, Toronto and Orange County, CA. If you are interested in helping us plan these events, please contact:
In New York, Michelle Brouhard at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Toronto, Hussein Allidina at Hussein@interfaithrefugeeproject.org
In Orange County, CA, Julie Gersten at email@example.com