Fatima Elmi, a former refugee from Somalia who was welcomed to the United States by Lutherans and is now a staff member of LIRS affiliate Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, captures hearts wherever she goes. In early December 2011 she was selected as a member of the U.S. government delegation at the UNHCR Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland where the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention was celebrated. Her story, which she also shared in Washington D.C. when LIRS asked her to attend the UNHCR Refugee Congress in June 2011, got the attention of Secretary of State Clinton. In her own remarks in Geneva, Clinton included Fatima’s story and noted the work of Lutheran social ministries welcoming refugees:
With us here today is Fatima Elmi, whose life during the past 20 years is clear evidence of the wisdom of investing in women. When civil war broke out in her native Somalia, she applied for asylum and was granted it in the United States. She settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her daughter and worked as a volunteer, helping other refugee mothers and daughters adapt to life in the U.S. A few years later, she joined the Lutheran Social Service Agency, where for the past 15 years she has helped new refugees find employment and build their own futures.
Now, her story is just one of millions that I could share and that you could share, stories of refugees who have found new homes, forged better lives, given back to communities they’ve joined. We can all write more stories like these, and we can do so by making pledges that really will bring about better opportunities to the Somali family stuck in a refugee camp in Kenya, or the Afghan girl, who wonders when her family will be able to return home after three decades of war, and so many others.