Every religion on the planet makes scriptural reference to the stranger – the imperative of welcoming the stranger, of hospitality, of treating a person from a foreign land as if they are part of your own tribe.

Today, the world is experiencing the highest levels of displacement ever recorded – 65.3 million people forced from their homes, 21.3 million of whom qualify as refugees under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  More than half of all refugees today are younger than 18.

More than half of today’s refugees come from three countries: Somalia (1.1 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Syria (4.9 million). Twelve percent of the world’s refugees come to the Americas.

This country is facing a time of fear and ignorance. Refugees are arriving and beginning strange, new lives here. Imagine what that might be like-going to a place you've never seen nor heard of, arriving in the dark of night, being driven to a home already furnished for you and then hurtling into your new life in this strange place, so far from everything you know.

9th-12th grade students at International Academy East wrote letters to Syrian refugees living locally, welcoming them here, and sharing with them their perspective about what it means to THEM to be American, and what they hope it will mean to them.