Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma is preparing to welcome and help resettle hundreds of Afghan refugees in Tulsa in the coming weeks and months, with the first arrivals possible within the coming days.
"We'll be welcoming those families very soon into our community," said Deacon Kevin Sartorius. He said they expect roughly 200 families for a total of about 800 individuals.
Each of the families has at least one member who aided the U.S. mission during the war in Afghanistan, Sartorius said, and all have been vetted and approved by the State Department.
Sartorius said Catholic Charities will assist with housing, transportation, English and cultural lessons, food and other services for the new arrivals. Much of the work will be accomplished by volunteers, he said.
"This is going to be a request for the whole community to kind of lift these people up and say thank you for the service they gave our soldiers, and welcome them," Sartorius said. "Catholic Charities has been so fortunate in that people or groups have stepped forward really en masse to say that we want to recognize and be hospitable to these folks as they arrive."
Sartorius called for neighborliness from Oklahomans toward the refugees.
"At Catholic Charities we see every person as an individual who's made in the image and likeness of God. Every single person deserves respect. They deserve to have their dignity recognized," Sartorius said.
"Community should not alienate or throw away a group of people because they're different," he said. "We will always stand with the underdog in that way."
More information on how to become involved in supporting the refugee resettlement process is available at the Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma website.