Oklahoma City, Okla. (KOKH) — Community organizations are preparing to welcome new neighbors.
Adam Soltani, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the last he heard, 1,800 Afghan refugees could potentially be coming to Oklahoma.
“About 1,800 give or take will be settled in the state of Oklahoma with a good possibility of about 1,000 coming to Oklahoma City and about 800 to the Tulsa area,” Soltani said. “That’s all the information that has come our way thus far. As far as timeline, we don’t know. I think things are happening so fast, and so many will be coming to the United States in large numbers that we may not have a huge advanced notice of when they will be here.”
With the situation in Afghanistan still unfolding, Oklahoma non-profit agencies like the Spero Project, are urgently gathering resources to aid those fleeing Afghanistan.
“This is certainly a unique crisis that will take a level of care and support that we haven’t seen in many years in the United States,” Kim Bandy, the CEO and Co-Founder of the Spero Project said.
The organization is working with Catholic Charities to make sure Afghans coming here not only have the resources to rebuild their lives in the United States, but also a strong community behind them.
“We can help with job placement, schooling, English classes and all of those things,” Bandy said. “We do that, but our premise is to be a really welcoming city. You need relationships and networks of caring people in addition to programming.”
Along with the basic needs, faith communities like CAIR are focusing on spiritual support.
“We have to remind them and reassure them that your culture and your religion are very safe,” Soltani said. “Especially, in a place like Oklahoma where we have such diverse communities that have been able to thrive and survive as far as holding on to their culture and their religious beliefs.”
Faith leaders are encouraging Oklahomans to welcome a new community of people who have experienced an extreme amount of trauma.
“Just open your hearts and your minds to understand the situation and the circumstances they’re coming from,” Soltani said.
Soltani said with the recent comments from Oklahoma’s GOP Chairman, John Bennett, regarding Muslims, this is a crucial time to be understanding.
“Before we judge, or before we put a label on anyone, let us have the human decency to get to know one another beyond the rhetoric, beyond the labels,” Soltani said. “Let’s use this time and each and every opportunity we have to connect with one another and to promote unity and not divisiveness.”