“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.”
On Monday, January 18, LIRS celebrated the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service with a special visit from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and U.S. Senator Mark Warner.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Senator Warner joined staff and members of the Afghan community at LIRS’s new Northern Virginia office, which was established in late 2021 to serve newly arrived Afghans in the region. There, they assisted in collecting and sorting donations while learning more about the challenges faced by our new Afghan neighbors.
The Ambassador, who had previously worked on Afghan refugee issues and assistance in the mid-1990s during the first Taliban insurgence, extended her thanks to those who had served alongside the United States in Afghanistan. In a brief address to those gathered in service, she also expressed her gratitude to LIRS and our Alexandria staff for their hard work—particularly those who are themselves recently arrived Afghans.
“Today, we’re here to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and perform acts of service in Reverend King’s name,” she said. “If you’ve read his essay on being a good neighbor, you would agree with me that the work being done through Operation Allies Welcome and at this resettlement site is particularly an apt way to live up to the legacy that he has left us. I know there are staff here who recently arrived. You’ve been through a lot, and yet you’re here: continuing to serve, continuing to give, and continuing to be part of our community.”
Senator Warner, too, shared messages of welcome and thanks before inviting Pastor Sarah Scherschligt of Peace Lutheran Church, the congregation hosting the LIRS office on its premises, to say a few words.
“Our fates are tied up in each other,” she said. “As we welcome you and you welcome us, as we develop this relationship together, what we’re doing is healing both of our lives and healing our world together.”
At LIRS, we are committed to continuing that healing work of welcome on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and every day. Since this summer, we have resettled approximately 1,800 newly arrived Afghans in Northern Virginia alongside our local partner, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, and we expect to resettle several hundred more Afghans in the region as the remaining evacuees depart military bases for their new communities.
“What this mission ultimately comes down to is our shared humanity,” said LIRS President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah. “We share the same hopes and dreams. No matter where we come from, we all want to feel safe, for our children to have an education and an opportunity at a better life…Many of us see our own stories reflected in theirs. We are them, and they are us.”
“I’m struck by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King all those years ago,” she added. “He said, ‘We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.’ And that’s at the heart of the work here – as we come together in pursuit of equality and justice for all, in pursuit of and service to humankind, we all stand to benefit.”