September 14, 2015 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS to Host Walk of Courage Award Gala; National Immigration Advocate Sonia Nazario to Deliver Keynote

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Press Contact: Miji Bell; 410-230-2841

BALTIMORE, MD – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) will host the Walk of Courage Award Gala on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 5:30pm, at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway, Baltimore, MD. The Gala will celebrate the courageous journeys of newcomers and the difference they are making in our communities.

The keynote speaker for the Gala will be national immigration advocate and Pulitzer Prize winning author Sonia Nazario, whose book, Enrique’s Journey, details a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S.

Activist, writer and scholar Mahnaz Afkhami will be honored with the Walk of Courage Award for her lifetime of bold advocacy for human rights. She is the Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland; the Executive Director of the Foundation for Iranian Studies, and former Minister of State for Women’s Affairs in Iran. Born in Kerman, Iran, she founded the University Women’s Association of Iran and served as Secretary General of the Women’s Organization of Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution. In exile in the United States, Ms. Afkhami has been a leading advocate of women’s rights for more than three decades, having founded several international non-governmental organizations focused on advancing the status of women.

The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Senft, retired pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will also be recognized with the Walk of Faith Award for his years of service to Lutheran ministries of welcome and justice. As a seminarian, he began his ministry with refugees in Germany during World War II and served on the LIRS board of directors during the 1970’s as the organization was resettling Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees. Rev. Senft was instrumental in helping LIRS secure funds to expand its work with refugees and migrants. In 2000, he led the ELCA’s efforts to reshape seminary education while teaching at Lutheran School of Theology in Gettysburg.

Honorary co-chairs for the event include: The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS); Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH); Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD); Sen. Ben Cardin (MD); Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ); Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL); Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA); The Hon. Jeffrey A Merkley (OR); Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME); Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA); Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY); Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD); and Rep. Juan Vargas (CA).

The Gala is open to the public. Tickets are $150 per person for general seating and $300 per person for premium seating which includes a private reception with the speaker and honorees. For more information regarding tickets or sponsorship opportunities, visit the Gala website at or call 410-230-2755.



Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.

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