From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Montagnard Refugees Moving to North Carolina

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Wed, 12 Jun 2002 11:08:52 -0500


June 12, 2002


       CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas
(LFS), Raleigh, N.C., is handling its largest immigration of
Montagnard refugees to date.  The Montagnards (mon-ten-YARDS) are a
Christian tribal people from the central highlands of Vietnam.
       The Montagnards were allies of the United States Military
Special Forces during the Vietnam conflict.  According to Pat Priest,
LFS director of refugee resettlement and immigration services, the
Montagnards' connection with special forces, religion and their
desire for land rights caused them to be persecuted and oppressed.
        Today, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS),
Baltimore, is the central organization assigning its affiliates cases
of refugees who need assistance and relocation in the United States.
        LIRS is a joint ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA), Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Latvian
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Lutheran churches in the
United States established LIRS to carry out their ministry with
immigrants and refugees around the world.  LIRS assigned 500
Montagnard refugees to LFS and another refugee resettlement
organization, Church World Service, New York.
        "This is a significant undertaking for our organization," said
Priest.  "We resettled 425 individuals to North Carolina in 2000 over
a span of 12 months, but now we are responsible for 500 people in
just two months."
        The largest Montagnard movement ever for LFS also comes after a
loss of staff and funds because of a moratorium on refugee admissions
due to the Sept. 11 attacks.
        The International Organization for Migration, Geneva,
Switzerland, is making the travel arrangements for the Montagnards.
The first group of 50 individuals left Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June
3.  There will be at least three flights weekly until July.
       Montagnards are not new to North Carolina.  In 1986 LIRS
decided that North Carolina would be a good location to move
Montagnards because of its successful resettlement record.  In June
1986 the first 200 refugees were approved to enter the United States.
Today, there are 3,000 Montagnards living throughout Charlotte,
Greensboro and Raleigh, N.C.
        "Montagnards are thriving in North Carolina," said Priest.
"They are vibrant, successful, and eager to see more of their own."
       According to LFS, there is a need for volunteers to assist with
transportation, English language tutoring, orientation to life in the
United States and cash donations.
      "May through July will be a critical time, but somehow --
through the generosity of compassionate people throughout North
Carolina and the United States -- resources must fall into place,"
said Priest.  "We have Montagnard-Americans already with us,
established and poised to take a lead role.   Lutheran Family
Services has been fortunate in its more than two decades of
'welcoming the stranger' in having strong community participation in
both Carolinas.  We hope that 2002 is no different."
-- -- --
EDITORS: The NC Care-Line is accepting calls from volunteers in North
Carolina at  800/662-7030.  Gifts to aid in the resettlement process
can be given to Lutheran Family Services at P.O. Box 12287, Raleigh,
N.C.  27605.

*Amy Wineinger is a junior at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa.  This
summer she is an intern with ELCA News and Media Production.

*Sharon Reuss is the director of public relations at Lutheran Family
Services in the Carolinas.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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