GENERAL CONFERENCE

‘Someone at the other end’: Utahns provide safe haven for Afghan refugees

Mar 28, 2022, 6:40 PM | Updated: Jun 18, 2022, 8:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — In the past six months, Utah has welcomed nearly 900 refugees from Afghanistan. Gov. Spencer Cox calls it the largest resettlement in our states history.

It’s the topic of one of KSL’s specials airing during General Conference weekend.

We all remember the shocking scene at the Kabul Airport last August. With the Taliban take over, Afghans who worked with the U.S. military or government were desperate to escape. 

Javid Ekhlas, his wife and two young children were among those who came to Utah.

Now, we are so comfortable here. It’s really nice for us now because day by day, we are familiar with the people, we are familiar with the places.”

Utah has two resettlement agencies that have taken the lead in helping these refugees.

Gov. Cox reaffirms Utah’s commitment to Afghan refugees

Natalie El-Deiry is the executive director of The International Rescue Committee

“It’s an incredible network of support and partnership that we benefit from. And that helps create a really strong fabric of support and networking for the poor refugees coming into Utah,” she said.

Aden Batar is the refugee services director for Catholic Community Services.

“And our community also has the depth, and also the big heart, to help those that have been persecuted and looking for a place to start a new life.”

Many Utahns have volunteered their time, loading moving vans with furniture and delivering those pieces to apartments for the refugees. Some are helping them settle in long-term, willing to spend months, even years, with them. 

Shelby Dunn is a volunteer with Catholic Community Services.

“I think their objectives are to give their children a life, and they want to be able to do that with their own independence.”

The governor and Mrs. Cox have stepped forward to help personally and support efforts on a state level.

“It’s core to who we are. I love living in a state that cares about these things. It’s part of our history,” he said. 

Abby Cox agreed, “Utahns want to give back. We’ve had people, so many people, reach out and say how can I help? How can I help? And we were guiding them to these to these organizations that are doing really powerful work.”

People of many faiths have assisted. The refugees can find clothing, furniture, jobs, and English classes at Deseret Industries.

Jean B. Bingham is Relief Society General President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“They’ve tried to make a good life in a place that they did not choose themselves. And so, the more we love, the more we can reach out to others and share what we have. Then, we become a real community.”

And most welcoming are Afghans themselves, those who came to Utah years ago, like Wali Arshad Salem, owner of Afghan Kitchen.

“I hope that I could give them, you know a little bit of hospitality that they had in Afghanistan, first slice of the Afghan culture to them.”

They all believe, it is the beginning of a new home.   

Join us for “Someone at the Other End” Saturday, April 2 at 1:30 p.m. on KSL TV and live-streaming on the KSL TV app.

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‘Someone at the other end’: Utahns provide safe haven for Afghan refugees