With U.S. funding for refugees again on the rise, IRIS Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service, Los Angeles, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, is rolling up its institutional sleeves for more placements, especially from Ukraine and Iran. To mark World Refugee Day and give visitors a chance to see what’s new, executive director Troy Elder and his colleagues lifted their lamps by the golden door of IRIS’s Atwater Village headquarters this afternoon — that is, they threw a festive open house.
It was a joy to see artist Katharine Gould. Her breathtaking “Crossings” exhibit is on display at St. Paul’s Commons, Echo Park until August, with a portion of sales benefiting IRIS. Colleagues from Seeds of Hope were aboard as well, sprucing up the landscaping as we partied.
Conversations with IRIS executives and case workers amount to a course in recent world events and U.S. foreign policy. Two case workers were friends many years ago in Iraq, members of Armenian Orthodox families that flourished in Saddam Hussein times, less so under the U.S.-sponsored regime than followed. The one who got to the U.S. first ended up being his childhood friend’s IRIS case worker. Among the newest case workers is another former client who came from Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal.
A longtime IRIS staffer told me of dismal human rights conditions in her native Iran. Tenor and refugee Jose Luis Hernandez, who sang two songs and spoke of his appreciation for the Rev. Richard Estrada’s welcome seven years ago, was badly injured fleeing political persecution in his native Honduras.
It is always such a privilege to spend time with the incredibly dedicated, freedom-loving people of IRIS, whose motto is “Welcome Home.” Read more about its work here.