Allentown Parish Reaches Out to Displaced Syrians of Lehigh Valley
"For I was hungry, and ye gave me food: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: I was naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me." Matthew 25:35-36
The faithful of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Allentown, PA have organized in an effort to identify and locate newcomers who are seeking refuge in the United States, reports the Very Rev. Anthony Sabbagh. "The largest Syrian community in the United States is here in the Allentown area," explains Fr. Anthony. "People in Syria are contacting their relatives to come to the United States in order to escape persecution and poverty; their homes are demolished, their jobs are gone. Their families here can apply for them to come since our government has opened the doors for Syrians, who are now coming to Allentown in numbers."
The parish of St. George is reaching out to this new wave of immigrants in several ways. A second church festival is in the planning stages, with the aim of directing all of the proceeds to benefit refugees of the conflict who live both in the United States and abroad. Additionally, while searching for ways to enlarge the scope of services to the displaced, Fr. Anthony discovered that Mary's Immaculate Missionary Center (a beautiful property in Lehigh Township owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia) was for sale. It became apparent to those at St. George that these buildings and acreage could meet the needs of those fleeing persecution abroad, as well as the poor and homeless of Lehigh Valley. Following a due diligence study of the property, Fr. Anthony and parish leaders began a fundraising drive with the goal of purchasing it.
"We are appealing to all the churches and to our community at large to help us in this effort. We are almost begging for help, so that we can do something for these people coming here," says Fr. Anthony. "Our teen SOYO group has been serving food to the homeless people in the community for years, and we are used to helping people. Now we are concentrating on providing for our own people coming from Syria. We cannot just say 'may God fill your stomach, may you feel dry.' Words don't mean much to those who have lost everything—you have to have action."