We started the Refugee Sanctuary Project at the UU Church in Eugene in January 2016 as a response to the international refugee crisis. Our goals were to educate ourselves and the larger community in order to counter hate speech and Islamophobia and to investigate how we could directly support refugees.

Last spring we hosted a lecture on the roots of Islam. We also screened a documentary about the medical crisis at the Syrian border, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker and the doctor who was the focus of the film. We collected clothing for refugees. Members of our group attended an open house at the local mosque.

On November 15 we will show another documentary at UUCE about the refugee crisis and we are planning to host two presenters on the current Middle East crisis in December and January.

A few weeks after the launch of our group, Eugene was designated as a Refugee Resettlement Center. Some of our members participated in the formation of the Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County (RRCLC).   Our UU group is represented on the RRCLC steering committee and has taken on the task of seeking out and facilitating opportunities for refugees to get to know our community and its culture. Members of our group have collected household goods and clothing for refugees, and some have been directly involved with assisting newly-arrived refugee families. Members of UUCE donated bicycles for the new refugee family, who will depend on bicycles and buses for transportation..

The world-wide refugee crisis is huge and can seem overwhelming. During 2015 65.3 million people were living as refugees, or one out of every 113 individuals in the world. The majority (51%) are children, and some have become separated from their families. 4.9 million refugees are from Syria. Many countries have opened their borders to refugees and have provided housing and other resources. We feel that our own country, founded by immigrants and refugees, can and should do the same. Our Refugee Sanctuary Project at UUCE is a small drop in a huge bucket of need, but it is a start.

The situation in the Middle East and in Syria is very complex. Here are two links you can access now for brief perspectives on the situation in Syria:

“Syria’s War: Who’s Fighting and Why”


“The War in Syria Explained in Five Minutes”


Our UU Refugee Sanctuary project is an open group, and we welcome your participation and ideas. Meetings will be announced in the weekly order of service.

For information about the Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County, go to http://www.ccslc.org/refugee-resettlement-program/ or email refugees@uueugene.org.

Contacts: Connie Newman at (541) 543-1685 or Jennifer Rowan at (541) 345-0543.