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Latter-day Saints Service Missionary Presents Seminar on Refugee Services

Bob and Amy Wylie with Barbara Culatta

Latter-day Saints Service Missionary Amy Wylie presented a seminar on Tuesday, February 3 about the work she and her husband, Bob, have done with refugees in Utah. The seminar, a David O. McKay Multicultural Education Presentation, was titled "We Met at the Pool--and Both were Healed: Serving Refugee Populations in Utah." The title refers to Christ's healing of a man by the pool of Bethesda, which Wylie represented in her presentation with a well known painting by Carl Bloch.

Amy and Bob have worked in Salt Lake City with impoverished and refugee populations for more than eight years. They are members of the Utah Governor's committee on refugee populations and several other civic committees. During the seminar, Amy shared various experiences of specific refugees, describing their backgrounds and some of the problems they have faced. Many of the refugees fled their countries of origin to escape persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or affiliation with particular social groups. In many of the examples that Amy shared, the refugees were forced to leave behind family members and friends as they fled to the United States--sometimes burying them along the way.

Amy explained that there are more than 10 million refugees worldwide, 1,000 of whom arrive in Salt Lake City every year. In addition to the 1,000 who come to Utah when they first arrive in the United States, many more make "second migrations" to Utah after first settling elsewhere. She credits this number of immigrants to Utah's reputation for helping others. Every year the President of the United States decides a predetermined number of refugees who will be allowed into the country. For 2009 George W. Bush allowed 80,000, which is more than the combined total from the nine countries with the next highest numbers.

Amy reminded her audience that, even with this large number of refugees, they must view refugees as individuals and avoid lumping them into generic categories. "That is the very worst thing we can do--to not give them an individual identity," she advised. "They are future Americans." Amy explained that with so much heartache and pain in their past lives, the refugees need understanding and compassion--a gift that is not without recompense on the part of the giver. "I have come to love them, but they also love me," Amy explained. She credited the courage and strength of the refugee women she's met as her inspiration to return to college and finish her degree.

"[These refugees] are future Americans."

Amy referred to the Book of Mormon account of Ammon assisting the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in fleeing to the land of the Nephites for refuge. "If God is the same today as He was yesterday, then we know He's saying the same thing today: 'Get these people out,'" Amy exclaimed. Additionally, she referenced an Ensign article written by BYU professor John Welch that focused on the innkeeper in the parable of the Good Samaritan. As described in Welch's article, people commonly seek to become like the Good Samaritan--who is symbolic of Christ--and overlook the innkeeper, in whose care the Samaritan places the injured man. "We need more innkeepers," Amy noted.

Wylie's seminar followed Associate Dean Barbara Culatta's talk about diversity and tolerance at the University Devotional. As part of her devotional, to develop the importance of serving those not of our own faith, Culatta showed a video clip featuring Amy Wylie and one of the refugee women she serves.

23 February 2009