Wichita church hosts Thanksgiving dinner for Syrian refugees

by Tobin Perry, |

WICHITA, Kan. (Christian Examiner)—Amidst a growing controversy among conservative U.S. Christians about how the government should deal with Syrian refugees looking to settle on American soil, a four-year-old Southern Baptist church in Wichita, Kan., co-hosted a Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, according to Wichita's KWCH-12 News.

It's an opportunity for us as a community, as a church, to reach out and love on them.

Wichita's City Life Church hosted the dinner in partnership with Wichita Refugee Connect. Refugees from six different countries participated in the dinner, including refugees from Syria.

The question of what to do with refugees has been hotly debated since it was reported that at least once of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks earlier this month came into Europe as a Syrian refugee.

Since then at least 27 governors have banned Syrian immigrants from their states. On Tuesday the ACLU sued Indiana Governor Mike Pence for his states' refusal to admit Syrian refugees. According to a Nov. 10 article in The Wichita Eagle, the United States is scheduled to receive 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, "a small portion of the more than 4 million people displaced by the war."

Those responsible for the Thanksgiving dinner in Wichita say the dinner had nothing to do with politics.

"That's not what this is about," Darren McClintock, the spiritual formations pastor at City Life Church, told KWCH-12. "We had this planned before that stuff happened. Because in the end, this is about these people who are here for whatever reasons—mostly traumatic reasons. It's an opportunity for us as a community, as a church, to reach out and love on them."

Organizers hoped that the dinner would help to build relationships between the refugees and church members, as they break down some of the barriers that may exist between the two groups.

"In having events like this [the idea is] to let people get to know each other and stop being scared of each other," said Claude Pentel-Sessions of Wichita Refugee Connect. "I've heard a lot of bad things about refugees, but I meet one and I realize they are just like me."

The news station reported that the refugees—many of whom come from warmer climates—also received gloves and hats to keep them warm during the winter.